Week in Review > Week in Review 3-25-24

Posted by on March 25th, 2024

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

The DeWine administration recently announced leadership awards and star ratings for business advisory councils in the state, in recognition of their work to develop professional skills, build partnerships and coordinate experiences that help prepare students for success. The awards were application-based and recognize the collaborative work involved in these efforts. There are 85 councils and the awards were developed by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) in partnership with a range of business groups.

Based on a recommendation of its Ohio Minority Development Financing Advisory Board (MDFAB), the Ohio Department of Development (DOD) recently awarded $1 million in support for two women-owned businesses in the state: both Guard Plus LLC dba Guard+ and Sydney Candle Company, LLC (Trumbull County) and Wonderland Playground LLC (Hamilton County) will receive $500,000.

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

The Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus Monday discussed chronic absence issues and how exclusionary discipline practices can affect them. Presentations were given by Patrick Hickman, the state’s attendance advisor within the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Office of Whole Child Supports, and Kim Eckhart, data manager at the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio. Opening the discussion, Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) said chronic absenteeism is “a pressing issue affecting Ohio’s educational landscape.” She added that she previously worked as an elementary school secretary who handled attendance and understands this has been an issue for years and was made worse during the pandemic.

Gov. Mike DeWine this week announced the award of $5 million from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio Department of Children and Youth (DCY) to 19 community- and faith-based organizations serving pregnant women and newly parenting families. Funds will help communities launch or expand services to improve infant and maternal health and support new families up to 12 months post-partum.

DISASTERS

Gov. Mike DeWine Sunday declared a state of emergency in 11 counties affected by tornadoes and other severe weather and activated the Ohio National Guard to help in Logan County. He previously directed the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to lead the response. The state of emergency includes Auglaize, Crawford, Darke, Delaware, Hancock, Licking, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Richland and Union counties. As part of the declaration, all relevant state departments and agencies will lend services, equipment, supplies and personnel. In addition to the Ohio EMA, ODH, OSHP and ODOT, that includes the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS).

EDUCATION

Members of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) will vote on at least five referendum items this spring, the organization has announced. OHSAA’s annual referendum voting period is Wednesday, May 1 through Wednesday, May 15. A majority vote is the only way that an OHSAA bylaw or constitution item can be added, deleted or changed. OHSAA staff plans to conduct meetings in each district in April to explain the referendum items that schools will be voting on.

Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) waded further into a dispute between the Warren County Educational Service Center (ESC) and Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) over alleged special education law violations and corrective actions ordered by the state. In its dismissal motion, DRO argues the court is required to dismiss the case because the ESC is obligated to exhaust administrative appeals under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state law before going to court.

Changes in the last capital appropriations bill continue to pose hurdles for public radio stations and reading radio services (RRS), but the Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC) hopes to see a fix in the upcoming capital budget. Under 134-HB687 (Oelslager), public TV, radio, and RRS affiliates were told they need to have a joint use agreement with a state university or community college in order to receive money through capital appropriations. Some stations, such as WOSU with Ohio State University (OSU), already partner with a state institution of higher education, but for those that do not, the requirement adds an extra hurdle to receive state funding.

ELECTIONS 2024

Businessman Bernie Moreno cruised to victory in the U.S. Senate Republican primary on Tuesday night, defeating Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Moreno will now face U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in the general election in November. As of late Tuesday night, Moreno had more than 50 percent of the vote in the three-way primary race. Dolan received 33 percent of the vote, while LaRose got 17 percent.

Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Forbes won the only contested Supreme Court primary this year, defeating Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison by a 26.4 percentage point margin in the Democratic election. She had 63.43 percent to Jamison’s 36.57 percent with 95 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night and led by over 120,000 votes. Forbes was endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party over Jamison, who unsuccessfully ran for the Supreme Court in 2022 against Justice Pat Fischer. Forbes has a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a B.S. degree from Cornell University. Then on Wednesday, the three Democratic candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court, including sitting Justices Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart, said they will make the case for voters to look past party in an election that is expected to heavily favor former President Donald Trump. Stewart and Donnelly will be running for the first time under the law that requires candidates on the general election ballot to have party affiliation appear next to their names. Democrats were swept by Republicans in all three Supreme Court races in 2022, the first year the law was in place.

Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem) will be the Republican candidate in the 6th Congressional District for both the special election and the general election. Rulli defeated Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Minerva) and chiropractor Rick Tsai in the race to fill the seat left by former U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), who left office to become president of Youngstown State University.

In the 9th Congressional District, Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) defeated former Rep. Craig Riedel and former Napoleon Mayor Steve Lankenau. Merrin received 52.5 percent of the vote, while Riedel got 34.4 percent and Lankenau got 13.2 percent.

In the 11-way Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District, businessman Dave Taylor came out on top with 25.4 percent of the vote. Among those defeated were Sens. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro), who received 9.6 percent of the vote, and Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), who got 1.7 percent. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati), but he announced he will retire at the end of his term.

In other congressional races, Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) defeated small business owner Zerqa Abid 64.3 percent to 35.7 percent to win the Democratic primary in the 15th Congressional District. Miller will face U.S. Rep. Mike Carey (R-Columbus) in the general election. In the 13th Congressional District, former state lawmaker Kevin Coughlin defeated businessman Chris Banweg and Richard Morckel in the Republican primary. Coughlin will face U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) in the general election. In the 4th Congressional District, Democrat Tamie Wilson will face U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) after defeating her primary opponent, Steve Thomas. U.S. Reps. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green), Dave Joyce (R-Novelty) and Warren Davidson (R-Troy) all easily defeated their primary challengers.

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich filed petitions to run as an independent for the 7th Congressional District. Kucinich, who served in Congress representing the Cleveland area for 16 years as a Democrat, said he will focus his campaign on the economic needs of Americans and the challenges many families face today, including inflation driving up the cost of food, housing, health care, energy, utilities, and education, “while the cost of credit rises and more and more Americans are going into debt.”

Four incumbent Republicans who voted for House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) over caucus pick Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) lost their seats in Republican primaries Tuesday, despite heavy spending by the Stephens-led Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) to defend them. Of the 21 Republicans who joined with Stephens, dubbed by detractors as the “Blue 22,” and all Democrats in the House to elect Stephens as speaker, 12 faced primaries on Tuesday. Those who did not succeed in retaining their seats were Reps. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), who lost to Diane Mullins; Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), who lost to Jodi Salvo; Gail Pavliga (R-Atwater), who lost to Heidi Workman; and Jon Cross (R-Findlay), who lost to Ty Mathews.

Rep. Elliot Forhan (D-South Euclid) was the lone Democrat incumbent to lose his seat in the primary, coming in third behind winner Eric Synenberg and second-place finisher Angel Washington in the three-way primary.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s endorsed candidate did not secure the Republican nomination for Ohio’s U.S. Senate contest, but the governor said Wednesday he is committed to helping businessman Bernie Moreno and former President Donald Trump win their elections this November. DeWine said he called Moreno Wednesday morning to congratulate him on his “impressive victory.”

Ahead of Election Day, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a significant fundraising advantage over his potential Republican opponents. In his pre-primary campaign finance report, Brown reported $5.7 million in receipts, $6.8 million in disbursements and $13.5 million in cash on hand. Brown is seeking his fourth six-year term in office. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, defeating then-U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine. Hannah News also reviewed the fundraising efforts of the various candidates in the congressional races.

Substantially more Ohio school funding issues were on the March primary election ballot compared to the prior two primary contests, though activity is still below recent general elections. According to the Ohio School Boards Association, 94 school funding issues were before Ohio voters this cycle. By comparison, voters saw 75 apiece in the spring 2022 and spring 2023 contests. In the two most recent general elections, voters saw 120 in 2022 and 167 in 2023.

According to the Ohio Library Council, seven funding issues were on the ballot for local library systems with five passing on Tuesday. Marysville Public Library’s narrow defeat was the only close contest, with 3,174 votes against it versus 3,126 in favor. The number of voters who chose not to cast a ballot on that question, 108, exceeded the margin of defeat, according to Union County Board of Elections preliminary results. The defeat in Ashtabula County of Kingsville Public Library’s request for a renewal/increase levy was decisive, just 37 percent in favor.

The following endorsement was made over the week:

– The re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced the endorsement of the Ohio Building Trades.

GOVERNOR

Gov. Mike DeWine and other state leaders Friday toured the Ohio State School for the Blind and the Ohio School for the Deaf, where he spoke with students and administrators about adaptive technologies and the schools’ needs.

HIGHER EDUCATION

The Kent State University Board of Trustees approved the establishment of four new majors during its regular quarterly meeting: the College of Communication and Information will establish the applied media major within the Bachelor of Arts degree and the journalism education major within the Master of Arts degree, effective fall 2024, while the College of Public Health will establish a biostatistics major and epidemiology major, both within the Master of Public Health degree, effective fall 2024. All four majors are pending approval of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

The College Board earlier this month launched a new, entirely digital SAT to students across the U.S. The administration of the new SAT this month completes the transition of the SAT “suite of assessments” to digital testing after the new version launched internationally in March 2023, the College Board said. The new digital version of the test is shorter than the pencil and paper version of the test, lasting just over two hours compared to three hours for the previous version. It includes shorter reading passages on the reading and writing section, with one question tied to each. Calculators are allowed on the entire math section, including the option to use the built-in graphing calculator.

Ohio State University (OSU) announced the hiring of Jake Diebler as head coach of the Ohio State men’s basketball program. Diebler, who becomes the 15th head coach in program history, received a five-year contract. Diebler, the first Ohioan to be named Ohio State’s head coach in 35 years, is in his eighth season at Ohio State. He was named the interim head coach on Feb. 14 and led the Buckeyes to a 6-2 record over the last month of the season.

IMPACT OHIO

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) Thursday gave the clearest indication of his interest in becoming House speaker in the 136th General Assembly, telling reporters that no matter who becomes speaker, it must be the choice of the Republican majority caucus. Huffman was asked about the leadership race in the wake of Tuesday’s primary election, which saw the defeat of four Republicans who were among 21 Republicans who went against the caucus majority and joined with Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and all House Democrats to make him speaker. His remarks came at the Impact Ohio Post-Primary Election Conference, sponsored by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

The Thursday conference included remarks by Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus) and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) on their hopes for the November election and what they would like to achieve before the current legislative session ends this year. Stephens discussed making Ohio “the best place” to live, work and raise a family and said more work is needed. His top priority is passing “a truly historic capital budget” along with the State Capital Improvement Program (SCIP).

Huffman and, separately, former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and former Justice Yvette McGee Brown discussed a proposed redistricting amendment that would put the process of drawing General Assembly and congressional district lines in front of a panel of Ohio citizens. Huffman, who spoke last at the conference, said that under the proposal, all of the guidelines about splitting local jurisdictions and communities of interest that were adopted by voters as part of 2015 and 2018 reforms would go away. He said that is the reverse position that many of the groups advocating for the new reform had pushed for when negotiating with lawmakers during the creation of those amendments. O’Connor said the proposed amendment was written as it is because of what she called the “ridiculousness” of the redistricting process in 2021 and 2022. O’Connor was in the majority with Democrats that struck down numerous maps as a gerrymander. She said the one “giant” flaw in the 2015 and 2018 amendments is that it left the process in the hands of politicians who will always put their interests ahead of the interests of the public.

An Impact Ohio panel looking back at Tuesday’s primary election and ahead to the November election seemed to agree that Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) will retain his gavel in the next General Assembly. The panel featured Jai Chabria, managing director of MAD Global Strategy, Joe Rettof, co-founder of RT Advisors, Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney, who also serves as secretary of the Ohio Democratic Party, and Brian Osborne, executive vice president of the Strategy Group Company. Chabria said he has “zero doubt” that Stephens will remain speaker, adding that he believes the floor of the 22 Republicans who have supported him has gone up.

In a preview of the campaigns for and against a proposed constitutional amendment raising Ohio’s minimum wage to $15, the pro-side argued that it will help Ohio workers to be able to have a living wage while opponents said it will end benefits such as tipped wages for restaurant and hospitality workers. Mariah Ross of One Fair Wage represented the pro-side on the panel moderated by Columbus Business First Editor-in-Chief Doug Buchanan, while Tod Bowen of the Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance argued for the opposing side. Ross said she is confident the issue, which is currently collecting signatures, will be on the ballot, and said it will pass because everyone has the right to feed their family if they are working full-time. Bowen said fast tracking significant increases to Ohio’s minimum wage laws “attacks” the tipped wage, which he said is essential to tipped workers’ making a good living. He argued that Ohio’s current law, which is indexed to inflation, has done a good job with keeping Ohio wages on pace with inflation unlike other states where the minimum wage has languished at the federal minimum wage level.

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou said Thursday that the state party will be selling its downtown headquarters as it seeks to downsize. Calling the building, located at 211 S. Fifth St. in Columbus, “iconic,” Triantafilou said the building is too much space and it is time to sell it. Triantafilou and Elizabeth Walters, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, separately spoke to the Impact Ohio conference. Triantafilou listed winning the U.S. Senate race and Supreme Court races among his top three goals, as well as delivering the state’s electoral votes for former President Donald Trump in November. Walters said the abortion issue will be integral for Democrats in 2024 with the win for Issue 1, the reproductive and abortion rights amendment last November. Besides the Supreme Court races, where Walters noted Ohio is the only state nationally that Democrats can flip control of the Court, and the U.S. Senate seat, she also said control of the U.S. House “will undoubtedly run through Ohio.”

LIBRARIES

The Public Library Association (PLA), an affiliate of the American Library Association serving public libraries in the U.S. and Canada, will bring its biennial conference to Columbus in early April and is expecting more than 6,000 participants. The Greater Columbus Convention Center will host the conference, with programs running from Tuesday, April 2 through Friday, April 5. The schedule includes workshops and discussions on numerous topics and keynote speeches from prominent writers and researchers including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mary Annaise Heglar, Joy Buolamwini and comedian Dulce Sloan.

MENTAL HEALTH

The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) are working to add new mental health peer support services to the Medicaid Behavioral Health benefit package. Peer support is currently only available as a Medicaid benefit for those with substance use disorder and as a “part of several evidenced-based practices,” but the new service, established through the state budget bill HB33 (Edwards), will expand coverage for mental health needs. Officials from ODM and OhioMHAS Tuesday held a stakeholder meeting on the roll out of the new benefit.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The group behind a proposed constitutional amendment that will create a citizens’ redistricting commission to draw the state’s General Assembly and congressional lines held a panel discussion on the proposal at Ohio State University Monday, saying it is not a complicated proposal. Despite expected strong opposition, they expressed confidence that they will not only be able to make the November ballot, but also will be able to convince voters to make a change despite recent reforms passed in 2015 and 2018. Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said the difference between the reforms adopted previously and the current “Citizens Not Politicians” proposal is that the 2015 and 2018 proposals were written by the Legislature and were not citizen initiated. She also said the amendments were centered on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which gives the power to politicians to draft districts in the General Assembly and Congress that benefit their party.

WORKFORCE

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday that 438 employers were approved for funding through the January round of TechCred, which will enable Ohioans to earn 4,947 tech-focused credentials. Some of the top industries awarded during this round include manufacturing, construction and education services.

Posted by on March 25th, 2024

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