Week in Review > Week In Review 4-10-2023

Posted by on April 10th, 2023

BALLOT ISSUES

As backers of a reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment push for the November ballot and Republican lawmakers consider options for an amendment requiring a higher threshold for passage of future amendments, there are a number of other potential constitutional amendments that may come before voters this year or next, including a new version of a minimum wage increase. Attorney General Dave Yost this week certified the petition summary for the “Raise the Wage” issue, which would increase Ohio’s minimum wage in increments to $15 per hour by 2026 and tie further increases to inflation. Other potential ballot issues address the right to refuse medical treatment, ending qualified immunity for government employees, and establishing a nursing facility patient bill of rights.

There is a serious logical flaw in the proposed ballot initiative to require a 60 percent vote to amend the Ohio Constitution, according to former Gov. Dick Celeste. “The irony here is they want to put an issue on the ballot to increase the number of votes necessary to pass to 60 percent, and they want to pass it with 50 percent. So here’s my suggestion — if you believe that 60 percent is a good idea, require in the language of the amendment that, ‘This amendment shall be passed by 60 percent.’ And then we get a fair test of it, right?” Celeste said during a Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) forum on Wednesday. That issue was among several topics the former Democratic governor discussed with Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau reporter Jo Ingles during the event.

Attorney General Dave Yost said Wednesday he’s certified the petition for a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the minimum wage as a fair and truthful summary of the potential ballot issue. The “Raise the Wage Ohio Amendment” would amend Article II, Section 34a of the Ohio Constitution to increase the minimum wage to $12.75 per hour in 2025 and $15 per hour in 2026, with further increases tied to inflation beginning in 2027.

FY24-25 BUDGET

Gov. Mike DeWine expressed concern Friday about a transportation budget amendment that bypassed typical review processes to greenlight a new highway interchange, but added that he declined to veto it to keep the pressure on for solutions to the underlying traffic problems. DeWine’s signing of HB23 (Edwards) marked his third consecutive transportation budget with no line-item vetoes. He and legislators who helped to shape the proposal cheered the $13.5 billion package for its historic breadth of transportation spending and focus on safety, including through new railroad regulations enacted in the wake of the East Palestine derailment.

While the debate over items such as force account limits, rail safety, and the Brent Spence Bridge corridor project made up many of the headlines out of HB23 (Edwards), the transportation budget, the 125-page bill signed by the governor last week has wide-ranging effects on a number of other transportation-related policies. The bill touches on areas such as the use of traffic enforcement devices by counties and townships, the makeup of the Ohio Rail Development Commission, Ohio State Highway Patrol salaries, design-build contracts bid out by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and requiring a number of studies.

CORONAVIRUS/MONKEYPOX

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported the lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost a year Thursday, with 5,214 in the past seven days. That was the lowest figure since 4,808 cases on April 14, 2022, and was down from 6,354 on March 30, 2023. Only five weekly totals since Jan. 1, 2022 were under 5,000 new cases, and they were all in March and April 2022.

EDUCATION

Seven Ohio teachers are finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. One teacher in each content category per state will be selected by a national committee to receive a $10,000 award, along with a paid trip to Washington, D.C. and a proclamation from the president. In math, Ohio finalists are Joshua Amstutz from Winton Woods High School in Winton Woods City Schools, Shanti Coaston from Westlake High School in Westlake City Schools, Anna Taylor from Highland Middle School in Highland Local Schools and Tara Zechman from Perrysburg High School in Perrysburg Exempted Village School District. In science, Ohio finalists are Annette Drake from Brookville Intermediate School in Brookville Local Schools, Zachary Smith from Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School and Karen Suder from the Summit County Day School.

The Ohio School Safety Center at the Ohio Department of Public Safety is seeking nominations through May for the first Ohio School Safety Stand Out Awards, which will recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to school safety and security through their commitment, efforts and leadership. Awards will go to two students and two school staff members. The contest and nominations are open to K-12 and higher education students and school staff. Members of the 2022-2023 Ohio Student Safety Advisory Council will select winners and recognize them at the 2023 Ohio School Safety Summit in June. The nomination form is at https://tinyurl.com/3e6je8zw. Questions can be sent to OhioSchoolSafetyCenter@dps.ohio.gov.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) is taking applications through Sunday, April 30 for the Encouraging Environmental Excellence in Education (E4) Program, which recognizes public and private K-12 schools for achievements in environmental stewardship and efforts to educate students on environmental topics. The recognition program started in 2019 under former Ohio EPA Director Laurie Stevenson. More information and application forms are available at https://tinyurl.com/4aau9b7n.

Gov. Mike DeWine toured a South Side Columbus elementary school Thursday as part of a recent string of visits to highlight the literacy instruction provisions of his FY24-25 budget proposal, saying the experience of seeing the “science of reading” in action the past few weeks has only strengthened his resolve on the issue. DeWine observed second and third grade classrooms for a few minutes apiece at Southwood Elementary School, hearing students identify open vs. closed syllables and figure out the corresponding vowel sounds. Later in the school library, Interim Columbus City Schools Superintendent Angela Chapman said this type of instruction stems from work the district started discussing in the 2019-2020 school year after seeing data that showed students were missing foundational reading skills.

A report on residents’ financial literacy ranked Ohio 10th nationally and first among neighboring states, with a fifth-place ranking overall for “financial knowledge and education.” The report was released Wednesday by personal finance site WalletHub, which used 17 key metrics in its analysis. The top 10 states were Nebraska, Utah, Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Washington, Maine, North Carolina and Ohio. Overall rankings among neighboring states included Pennsylvania, 21st; Michigan, 25th; Indiana, 26th; West Virginia, 43rd; and Kentucky, 46th.

ELECTIONS 2023

Early voting began Tuesday for the May 2 election in Ohio for the 67 counties with local candidates and issues on the ballot. More information about the election can be found at www.voteohio.gov.

As early voting began on Tuesday, the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) announced the launch of www.judicialvotescount.org/ for the May primary election. “Judicial Votes Count is a comprehensive voter information website about Ohio’s judicial elections where Ohio voters can access quality, unbiased information about the candidates for judge who will be on their ballots,” OSBA said in a news release.

GAMING/GAMBLING

Ohioans placed $638.8 million in bets during the second month of legal sports gambling, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). Sportsbooks paid out $552.6 million in winnings in February, and $3.4 million in wagers were voided. Approximately $59.1 million in promotional credits were issued in February. February’s taxable revenue for sportsbooks was $82.9 million. In January, Ohioans placed $1.1 billion in bets, with $883.7 million in winnings being paid out. There were $20.7 million in voided wagers in January. Sportsbooks issued nearly $320 million in promotion credits during the first month of legal sports betting.

Ohio’s four casinos and seven racinos all took in more revenue in February 2023 than they did in February 2022, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission and Ohio Lottery Commission. The state’s casinos made $82.6 million in February 2023, up from $75.3 million in February 2022. Ohio’s racinos made $114.4 million in February 2023, up from $103.6 million in February 2022.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) has removed Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) as chair of the committee hearing a proposed constitutional amendment that would require future constitutional amendments to get at least 60 percent of the vote for passage, citing Wiggam’s signing of a discharge petition for legislation in Wiggam’s own committee. However, Wiggam told Hannah News that a discharge petition is the only sure way to get HJR1 (Stewart) on an August special election ballot. Otherwise, the speaker could run out the clock should Wiggam have the resolution reported out of the Constitutional Resolutions Committee and send it on to the House Rules and Reference Committee. In a letter to Wiggam Thursday, Stephens said HJR1 “is a priority for our caucus,” but criticized Wiggam for not holding a hearing on the legislation until March 22, five weeks after it was referred. In a separate letter, Stephens appointed Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) as chair of the committee. Wiggam later responded in a letter of his own.

In a new lawmaker profile interview with Hannah News, Rep. Michele Grim (D-Toledo) discussed how eliminating medical debt is a top priority for her, as evidenced by her sponsorship on Toledo City Council of legislation to provide funding to purchase and then cancel medical debt through a nonprofit.

As the oldest child of nine children, new Rep. Munira Abdullahi (D-Columbus) says she knows a thing or two about conflict resolution. While she called her introduction to the Statehouse “like drinking out of a firehose,” Abdullahi said in an interview with Hannah News that growing up in a large family and as a first-generation immigrant has prepared her well for the Legislature.

A House spokesman confirmed Wednesday that Rep. Dave Dobos (R-Columbus) has resigned as vice chair of the House Higher Education Committee and taken himself off of the panel a day after multiple media outlets reported that he had not graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as he had claimed in campaign and office materials.

JUDICIAL

This week’s is a different Ohio Supreme Court than the one that agreed to hear the high-profile case on birth certificate gender changes now allowed by the DeWine administration and aided by the Court’s two-year-old probate form. Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy and Justices Patrick Fischer and R. Patrick DeWine voted against Hailey Emmeline Adelaide’s appeal last fall, when the former chief joined Democrats in accepting the case, but heard oral argument Tuesday on the following question: “Can transgender people change [the] sex listed on birth certificates?” Questions posed by justices this week did not address that query, however, but instead whether there was any justiciable dispute at all for the Court to hear without a party contesting Adelaide’s request to change not only the birth certificate name of Brian Edward Deboard but also his/her assigned gender. Justice Joe Deters, who now fills the former chief’s vacated seat, remained silent and could tip the Court’s decision one way or another.

Posted by on April 10th, 2023

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