Week in Review > Week in Review 3-20-2023Posted by Paul Imhoff on March 20th, 2023
The “All In for Ohio Coalition,” comprising the Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOG), Policy Matters Ohio and other stakeholders, held a press conference Monday, issuing eight budget demands to Gov. Mike DeWine and the General Assembly as part of its proposed “People’s Budget.” Priorities include completion of the Fair School Funding Plan, reviving former Gov. George Voinovich’s 7.5 percent state income tax, and “citizenship for all,” among others.
Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kimberly Murnieks told the House Finance Infrastructure and American Rescue Plan Subcommittee Tuesday that more than $26 billion in federal funding was allocated to or through the state of Ohio to respond to or recover from the pandemic. She said that most of that funding has been appropriated by the General Assembly over the past three years, and $19 billion has been fully expended. This answered in part one of the questions subcommittee Chair Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) had identified as the charge for the subcommittee: to determine what is left. Other questions he wants the group to get answered include identifying what restrictions the federal government has placed on the funds, what specifically Gov. Mike DeWine has proposed spending in the FY24-25 budget, and what the subcommittee’s preferences are for distributing what is left.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) needs a significant funding increase to better respond to large-scale animal disease outbreaks, according to ODAg Director Brian Baldridge. Baldridge, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Director Anne Vogel all provided budget testimony before the House Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development, and Natural Resources on Wednesday. “In 2022, eight outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) across Ohio emphasized the dedication of our animal health staff. ODAg spent $2 million responding to a single large-scale outbreak in which over 3.7 million layer chickens were depopulated. This prevented the spread of the disease to the 45.8 million chickens in Ohio and 45.6 million chickens in nearby Indiana,” Baldridge said. Mertz said the total ODNR budget is $655.85 million in FY24 (a 6.5 percent increase over FY23) and $652.54 million in FY25 (a 0.5 percent increase from FY24). The GRF request is $175 million in FY24 (a 1 percent increase over FY23) and $171.58 million in FY25 (a 2 percent decrease from FY24). Meanwhile, Vogel said Ohio EPA’s budget increase is primarily due to requests involving H2Ohio. The total Ohio EPA budget is $272.51 million in FY24 (an 11.2 percent increase from FY23) and $275.55 million in FY25 (a 1.1 percent increase from FY24). The GRF request is $13.86 million in FY24 (a 51.8 percent increase from FY23) and $13.91 million in FY25 (a 0.3 percent increase from FY24). According to the agency Redbook, the GRF increase “reflects the budgetary shifting to finance the Auto Emissions E-Check Program fully with GRF.”
Legal presumptions of equal shared parenting reduce intimate partner violence and child maltreatment, National Parents Organization (NPO) Board Chair Don Hubin told the House Families and Aging Committee on Tuesday. Hubin was one of 13 individuals providing proponent testimony on HB14 (Creech-John), which would encourage divorced/separated parents to work together and require courts to follow the standard that begins with the presumption that a 50-50 parenting plan is in the best interest of the child.
Advocates and entities representing and caring for those with developmental disabilities appeared before the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Tuesday to ask lawmakers to approve funds to pay home care professionals more to help address a workforce shortage. Tuesday’s hearing opened with HB33 (Edwards) budget testimony from Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) Director Kim Hauck, who said her agency’s proposed budget would increase by 4 percent in FY24 and 5.2 percent in FY25. The agency’s Redbook shows a total budget of $4.35 billion in FY24 and $4.58 billion in FY25; $833 million comes from the General Revenue Fund in FY24, and $910 million in FY25.
Hauck said the availability of direct care workers for Ohioans with disabilities is the most pressing issue in the developmental disabilities system. She said it has struggled to recruit, retain and invest in this essential workforce.
The much-discussed teacher workforce shortage is a complex problem with wide variation by region, grade band and content area and with incomplete data on causes, Ohio Department of Education (ODE) officials told the State Board of Education Tuesday. Interim Superintendent Stephanie Siddens turned her monthly board presentation over to department staff for a review of teacher workforce data and trends with Aly DeAngelo, senior executive director of the Center for Performance and Impact, saying the state doesn’t have teacher position vacancy data, so the department is unable to tell how long it takes schools to fill positions and whether they are ending certain course offerings for lack of available employees.
State Board of Education (SBOE) members spent the bulk of their Tuesday meeting discussing legislation that would overhaul Ohio’s education systems, debating the proposal with Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) and hearing from Rep. Sean Brennan (D-Parma). SB1 (Reineke), and its companion bill HB12 (Jones-Dobos), would move most education policymaking authority into the governor’s cabinet and away from the board. Brenner told members the General Assembly plans to act on SB1 or HB12 by June 30, and said that if that legislation hasn’t passed by then, then “probably nothing will happen.” Brennan, a freshman lawmaker who sits on the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee, kicked off the Tuesday meeting by introducing himself to members and telling them he is their “advocate” in the debate over the legislation.
SBOE members also heard from William L. Phillis, the executive director of the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding and a former assistant superintendent of public instruction, who told members he thinks SB1 is unconstitutional. “The 1953 amendment establishing the board was adopted by the people of Ohio to transfer the state education agency from the governor’s office, placing it under the state board. The State Board of Education was established as a fourth branch of government. Legislation to move the agency back to the governor’s office is contrary to Article VI, Section 4 of the Ohio Constitution. It is a proposal to change the Constitution by legislation; hence a move that violates Article 1, Section 2 which states in pertinent part ‘all political power is inherent in the people.’ If SB1 is enacted and signed by the governor, it would set a precedent for the Legislature to alter any other part of the Constitution without a vote of the people. SB1 is a matter that should be decided by the people, not by the Legislature,” he said. Brenner disagreed.
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) alerted senators Tuesday to the state’s literacy “crisis” as measured by the 40 percent of third-graders who lack proficiency in English language arts. Director Melissa Weber-Mayrer of ODE’s Office of Approaches to Teaching and Professional Learning summarized current literacy policies in Ohio, including the Third Grade Reading Guarantee, dyslexia supports and administrative rules for phonics instruction, supported in part by Ohio’s $42 million, four-year Comprehensive Literacy State Development (CLSD) Grant from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). “Ohio’s vision is for all learners to acquire the knowledge and skills to become proficient readers,” she said of the department’s state literacy plan.
Lawmakers should prioritize updating salary data underlying the new school funding formula over accelerating phase-in from six to four years, architects of the formula told a House budget subcommittee Tuesday. “What if we were to take and fully phase in the formula in this General Assembly? Would you welcome this? Take us all the way to 100 percent?” asked Rep. Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville), chair of the House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, referencing the expressed interest of some House members. Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), chair of the full House Finance Committee, said an accelerated phase-in was under consideration at the outset of budget deliberations. Ryan Pendleton, executive director of the North Coast Shared Services Alliance and former treasurer of Akron Public Schools, said using updated salary and other cost input data would do more to keep the state and local share calculations in balance and prevent outsize reliance on caps and guarantees, which he described as key to ensuring the durability of the formula. Pendleton testified alongside Perrysburg Schools Superintendent Thomas Hosler and Chardon Schools Superintendent Michael Hanlon Jr.; all three are members of the workgroup that devised the formula under the leadership of former Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and former Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson).
Representatives of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the Ohio Christian Education Network (OCEN) and American Federation for Children were among those testifying Tuesday to the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee in support of HB11 (McClain-John), known as the “backpack bill.”
OCEN Executive Director Troy McIntosh said the bill “empowers parents, rather than the state, to be the one who determines what option is best for their children.” He cited surveys by Edchoice.org to say parental satisfaction rates “have skyrocketed” when there is an “education freedom program” available, adding that results on standardized test scores are mixed — some show a decline but “at least as many” show measurable gains. McIntosh also called the bill “good policy” for all students, including those at public schools, and argued the bill would not “financially devastate” public schools. Local revenue will not be affected by a reduction in student enrollment, he said.
Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) Wednesday announced a comprehensive bill addressing higher education in the state of Ohio that includes provisions ranging from training of board of trustees members to a ban on faculty strikes. Cirino said he believes the state has made strides on access and affordability and his bill seeks to address the equality side. He said SB83 is designed to ensure the very best performances of Ohio’s institutions of higher education. He argued that diversity of thought at campuses is not being addressed and in some ways is being punished.
Ohio is not among the vast majority of states who’ll face difficultly drawing down additional federal money because of increased federal scrutiny of readiness to resume Medicaid eligibility redeterminations after the pandemic hiatus, Ohio Department of Medicaid Director Maureen Corcoran told the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) Wednesday. ODM started work on the redeterminations Feb. 1, anticipating the first round of ineligible people will be removed in the April-May timeframe. Corcoran reviewed again Wednesday the timelines for completing determinations, projecting an 18-month process to complete the full review of all 3.6 million enrollees, given the deliberate steps ODM and counties must undertake to contact people and their right to appeal removal from the program. In assessing states’ readiness, the federal Centers for Medicaid Services (CMS) has been engaging states in the lead up to resumption of eligibility. ” … just in the last couple of days we’ve learned that, or we’ve been told, that Ohio does not have any barriers or any procedural concerns that CMS has. However, there are more than 40 states that do, and those 40 states then will not be allowed to draw down federal money beginning April 1,” Corcoran said.
Corcoran said in House budget testimony Thursday the agency is trying to achieve an average $16 hourly wage for direct care workers in its budget proposal while trying to prevent shifting among care sectors based on wage differentials, but acknowledged the discussion in prior hearings about the need for much greater increases. “I am not going to pretend that $16 an hour is adequate,” she told the House Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee. “It represents historic increases in rates. It was something that the governor felt very strongly about, but he was also clear in introducing it that it was subject to further discussion with the General Assembly.” Corcoran said the administration is also trying to make it easier for providers to work across systems, so a person could more easily care for both a person with developmental disabilities and a senior citizen in their community, for example.
The House Ways and Means Committee heard warnings Tuesday of costs to homeowners and revenue losses to local governments from the income and property tax overhaul in HB1, while also getting a history lesson on decades old statutory mechanisms to control property tax inflation. Tuesday’s committee hearing was dedicated to opponent testimony on HB1 (Matthews), a sweeping proposal to cut income taxes and pair repeal of state property tax subsidies with a reduction in the proportion of property value to which tax rates are applied. But the meeting led off with a presentation by Sam Benham, division chief of taxation and economic development for the Legislative Service Commission (LSC), who spoke about property tax reduction factors related to 111-HB920, adopted in 1976 and then updated following a 1980 constitutional amendment to create different classes of property. Chair Bill Roemer (R-Richfield) said he’d invited LSC to provide the background information after questions about HB920 arose in prior hearings.
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