Week in Review > Week In Review 12-4-23

Posted by on December 05th, 2023

EDUCATION

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) is relaunching an enhanced version of the “Respect the Game” program to address abusive fans who are the organization says are embarrassing student-athletes and causing a shortage of sports officials. The Respect the Game website is located at https://www.ohsaa.org/Respect-the-Game and contains resources for school administrators, public address scripts, updated content for preseason parent meetings, examples of positive behavior as observed by contest officials, responsibilities for various groups, public service announcements and more. Videos will also be added containing interviews with school administrators sharing ideas that work at their schools in promoting positive sporting behavior.

The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) recently announced that all 51 educational service centers (ESCs) throughout the state earned a “High-Performing” designation. To earn the designation, ESCs must generate cost savings of at least 5 percent across five core service areas as compared to the expense client school districts would incur by providing those services in-house or through another provider. According to DEW, average savings are far in excess of 5 percent, averaging 40 percent in 2023.

Two Ohio teachers Thursday each received $25,000 Milken Educator Awards, which the organization calls the “Oscars of teaching.” At Shanahan Middle School, eighth grade mathematics teacher Marissa McCarthy received the national award, which comes with an unrestricted $25,000 financial prize. McCarthy’s was the first Milken Educator Award in the Olentangy Local School District in Lewis Center. McCarthy joined Ryan Gilbert, an 11th and 12th grade English language arts teacher at Ohio Hi-Point Career Center Bellefontaine, as the other 2023 Milken Award winner from Ohio.

ELECTIONS

The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday fined a group that is seeking to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot ending qualified immunity. Ohioans to End Qualified Immunity has proposed an amendment that would repeal constitutional immunities and defenses in cases alleging a civil rights violation by government actors, but has not been able to get past the initial petition review by the attorney general’s office. Attorney General Dave Yost has rejected the group’s submission seven times, with the latest stating that it contains “omissions and misstatements that, as a whole, would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed amendment.” On Thursday, the Elections Commission fined the group $100 for not filing a timely report. Commission Executive Director Phil Richter told the panel that he recommended the fine based on the fact that the group ultimately filed the report, but did not file any explanation with the commission as to why the finance report was not filed by the deadline.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) Tuesday told reporters that higher education reform bill SB83 (Cirino) “doesn’t have the votes” needed to pass the House floor. Sen. Jerry Cirino’s (R-Kirtland) legislation would make dramatic changes to the operations of institutions of higher education. Cirino, chair of the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee, has said the legislation is needed as a “course correction” at college campuses where “true intellectual diversity” is lacking. While a new version of the bill removed a provision that would have prohibited university faculty from striking and added other flexibilities, critics said the legislation still threatens collective bargaining rights. Asked if the bill is “dead” or if the speaker would continue to try to work on it, Stephens said, “I don’t know that I’m trying. I mean it’s been in committee for what? Six months? Five months or whatever? … I think there are a lot of concerns with that bill from both sides of the aisle frankly … [I] understand what’s being attempted, but sometimes that language can … go either direction.”

A day later on Wednesday, SB83 came in for criticism and praise during a House Higher Education Committee hearing when Chair Tom Young (R-Centerville) divided hearing time evenly between proponents and opponents of SB83, apportioning an hour and 15 minutes apiece. The very lengthy witness list, however, overwhelmingly consisted of opponents. Opponents cast the bill as anti-union and said it would impose vague, one-size-fits-all state policies to override local decision-making that is already protecting the academic freedom the bill seeks to ensure. Proponent witnesses frequently spoke on the need for the DEI provisions of the bill, many of them citing a recent Wall Street Journal report on the use of DEI principles in faculty hiring at Ohio State University.

Senate leadership announced Wednesday the session schedule for the first half of 2024, with eight total sessions planned and a light calendar ahead of the Tuesday, March 19 primary election. Like the House’s first-half schedule for next year, the Senate’s schedule shows a final session before summer break on Wednesday, June 26.

The House Wednesday passed legislation that would eliminate the spousal exception for rape by a near- unanimous vote. Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati), a joint sponsor of HB161 (Miranda-Hillyer), said that lawmakers have been working since 1985 to repeal the exception, which prevents prosecution of a spouse for rape or sexual assault if no threat of force or violence exists. She said repealing it “will correct an arcane exception indicative of a bygone era.” The bill passed by 74-1, with Rep. Bill Dean (R-Xenia) being the only lawmaker to vote against it.

The House also passed HB257 (Hoops-Claggett) 73-3, which would allow certain public bodies to hold virtual meetings. Sponsor Rep. Jim Hoops (R-Napoleon) said he had been skeptical before the pandemic about allowing groups to conduct business virtually, but through the pandemic and listening to comments from those organizations, he learned that public participation was much higher through the utilization of virtual meetings, and attendance increased among members of the panel.

Another bill that has been reintroduced in multiple General Assemblies again cleared the House floor Wednesday: HB139 (Roemer-J. Miller) would increase the penalties for assault if the victim is acting as a sports official or the assault is committed in retaliation for the victim’s actions as a sports official. Sponsor Rep. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield) said sports officials face significant issues and often quit within three years. Many have cited low pay and threats as the reasons, and he said HB139 looks to address at least part of that issue. He said that since they first introduced the bill multiple sessions ago, more people have come in to testify in favor of the bill.

Other legislation passed by the House on Wednesday included the following:

– HB258 (K. Miller-Creech), which requires the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to ask about organ donation when a person is applying for a hunting or fishing license, which passed unanimously.

– HB176 (Grim), which makes changes to the “Ohio Carpenters” license plate, which passed 68-6.

– Four road designations that passed unanimously: HB64 (Grim), designating the “Keith G. Earley Memorial Interchange;” HB75 (Lampton-Dean), designating the “Caitlin Renee Preston Memorial Highway;” HB81 (Robb Blasdel-Jones), designating the “Sheriff Dale R. Williams Memorial Highway;” and HB107 (Patton), designating the “Cleveland Firefighter Johnny Tetrick Memorial Highway.”

Asked about filling the vacancy left by the resignation of former Rep. Bob Young (R-North Canton), House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) suggested they will wait to see which candidates file to run for the seat next year by the Wednesday, Dec. 20 deadline.

Gender-affirming care is “leading to harmful and deadly outcomes and consequences, especially for children,” Dr. David Bonnet told the Senate Government Oversight Committee on Tuesday. Bonnet, who is the system chief medical officer of high reliability medicine at University Hospitals in Cleveland according to his LinkedIn profile, was one of several individuals testifying in support of HB68 (Click) during the meeting. The legislation generally prohibits minors from obtaining gender-affirming care and bans transgender women and girls from participating in school sports. “Seventy years ago, the most celebrated new treatment for mental illness … was to cut out the front part of the brain,” Bonnet said, referring to lobotomies.

The Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus and Business First Caucus held a long-planned joint meeting Tuesday, focusing on how child care issues both affect the workforce today and play a role in education for the future. Presentations were given to the caucuses by Ohio Action for Children CEO Eric Karolak, Council for a Strong America State Director Cyndy Rees, and Ashland County Community Foundation Chief Program Officer Kristin Aspin. Karolak focused on the “business side” of the topic, saying affordable child care is a requirement for economic development and describing how child care poses an education issue as well. Ninety percent of brain development occurs before children are old enough to go to school, he explained, and so child care is where training the “workforce of tomorrow” begins.

The Public Assistance Benefits Accountability Task Force recently issued its report assessing where gaps exist in benefits distributed from the state of Ohio and to make the system more “accurate, efficient and effective.” The report notes that its recommendations in the areas of Ohio Benefits (OB) System, workforce and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits will take collaboration with the General Assembly, DeWine administration, local government officials and other stakeholders to achieve. The task force was chaired by Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) and Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster).

The State and Local Government Committee has released its recommendations for updates to existing licensure requirements in the Ohio Revised Code. Per 132-SB255 (McColley), a third of licensure requirements must be reviewed every two years. In total, the committee was directed to review 19 public licensing entities including the Accountancy Boards; Ohio Police Officer Training Commission; Department of Agriculture; Ohio Architects & Landscape Architects Boards; Ohio Casino Control Commission, Department of Commerce (DOC) – Division of Financial Institutions; DOC – Superintendent & Division of Industrial Compliance; DOC – Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing – Real Estate Commission & Appraiser Board; State Cosmetology and Barber Board; Motor Vehicle Repair Board; Bureau of Motor Vehicles; Department of Public Safety; State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors; State Racing Commission; Secretary of State; and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. On Tuesday, the House State and Local Government Committee accepted a substitute version of a bill to implement those occupational licensing changes and to expand review requirements to business licensures in future General Assemblies.

In other legislative action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB305 (Stewart-Brown), which deals with electronic court filings and fees; the House Families and Aging Committee reported out HB173 (Troy), which designates May as “Older Ohioans Month;” the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out SB17 (Wilson), which deals with financial literacy education; and HB206 (Click- Robb Blasdel), which address expulsions for endangering others; and the House State and Local Government Committee reported out SB24 (Roegner), which designates April as “Sikh Awareness Month.”

HIGHER EDUCATION

New data from the U.S. Department of Education estimate an increase in Pell Grant recipients and an increase in the number of maximum Pell Grant awards after the launch of the redesigned 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. The department called the new form “simplified” and “streamlined.” Starting with the 2024-25 award year, the FAFSA form will also include updates to student aid calculations, linking eligibility to family size and the federal poverty level. These changes will significantly expand access to federal student aid, the department said. Pell Grants are used to support students from low-income backgrounds who are seeking an undergraduate degree. The agency estimated that about 610,000 new students will receive Pell Grants, driven primarily by the changes to eligibility rules. Pell recipients are also set to receive more aid under the changes, with nearly 1.5 million more students receiving the maximum Pell Grant, the department said, bringing the total number of students eligible for the maximum Pell Grant amount to more than 5.2 million.

A majority of the 154 full-time and adjunct faculty at the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) recently voted to form a union aligned with the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), naming themselves the CCAD Faculty Alliance (CFA). Faculty said they held a secret ballot administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after the CCAD Board of Trustees refused to voluntarily recognize their union.

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) and the Toledo Zoo announced they have developed a multi-year fellowship program to provide students with career experience, mentorship and help creating a pipeline to full-time job opportunities. The paid fellowship offers students with up to three years of experience in various fields, including conservation, finance, marketing, biology, operations and more, with the potential for full-time employment after graduation.

MENTAL HEALTH

The holidays are “not always the most wonderful time of the year” for many Ohioans, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS). “High expectations, loneliness and stress can lead to being overwhelmed,” OhioMHAS said. “That’s why OhioMHAS — in partnership with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) — unveiled a new round of public service messages urging Ohioans to ‘Check in on Yourself.'” The campaign, which includes digital ads, social media messages and billboards, aims to help Ohioans assess their stress level and offers tips to manage it in a healthy way.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Wildlife-based recreational activities contributed nearly $12.5 billion to Ohio’s economy in 2022, according to a new report — “Participation Levels in and Economic Contributions from Outdoor Recreation in Ohio” — conducted on behalf of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Researchers surveyed Ohio residents to gauge their participation in outdoor recreation and the economic impact of those activities. The survey primarily focused on Ohioans’ involvement in hunting, fishing, target shooting and wildlife viewing. Collectively, the four activities provided nearly 80,000 jobs in Ohio and $4 billion in income, plus $1.1 billion in local and state taxes, as well as more than $600 million in federal taxes. The activities contributed a total of $6.7 billion to Ohio’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022. Of the $12.5 billion of economic activity created through these activities, Ohio residents contributed $12 billion.

The ODNR Division of Wildlife reminded white-tailed deer hunters in the Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance area of Hardin, Marion, and Wyandot counties that sampling is mandatory for all deer harvested during the seven-day gun season, Monday, Nov. 27 to Sunday, Dec. 3. The division confirmed that six deer in the disease surveillance area have tested positive for CWD since the summer of 2023, including one in Hardin County, the county’s first. Since the fall of 2020, 28 wild deer have tested positive for CWD: 21 in Wyandot County, six in Marion County, and one in Hardin County. A disease surveillance area in those three counties remains in effect. A sample was recently discovered in Allen County that requires additional testing.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), with the help of the Ohio Valley Conservation Coalition and the Portage Park District, has expanded the Tom S. Cooperrider-Kent Bog State Nature Preserve by an additional 75 acres. “We cherish this unique and important nature preserve which safeguards one of Ohio’s largest bogs,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “Protecting areas like this helps to preserve Ohio’s natural landscape so more people can enjoy the wonders of the outdoors.” The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves’ effort to acquire additional bog and uplands began nearly 10 years ago.

Posted by on December 05th, 2023

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