Week in Review > Week in Review 4-29-24

Posted by on April 29th, 2024

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Attorney General Dave Yost Monday filed an emergency motion with the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing that Franklin County Judge Michael Holbrook overstepped his authority by granting a sweeping injunction placing all of transgender bill HB68 (Click) on hold for 14 days or until a hearing is held. Holbrook issued the temporary restraining order (TRO) last week against HB68 requested by families of two children, identified by the pseudonyms Madeline Moe and Grace Goe, who are in the midst of or considering hormonal treatments that would be disrupted by the law, which was vetoed by Gov. Mike DeWine, but that veto was overridden by lawmakers. The judge ruled that the plaintiffs would likely succeed on their claims of a single-subject violation. HB68 was to have taken effect on Wednesday, April 24 before Holbrook’s order. Yost is asking for the Ohio Supreme Court to narrow the ruling of the TRO so that it only applies to the plaintiffs, rather than the entire state, and allow enforcement against nonparties to the lawsuit.

AUDITOR OF STATE

Auditor of State Keith Faber issued a warning to state and local government employees about reviewing requests to redirect payments from public accounts, saying that at least 23 government offices in Ohio have been affected by such scam attacks in the past 12 months. Those have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in public funds, Faber added. Under the redirect schemes, also known as “business email compromises,” individuals will impersonate vendors or other government employees and request payments be sent to different bank accounts. The impersonation can occur in the middle of an existing email conversation.

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

Representatives from the Ohio Department of Children and Youth (DCY) outlined steps the state is taking toward improving child care, pregnancy-related deaths and other social determinants of health Tuesday during a meeting of the Commission on Infant Mortality. Joel Potts of DCY said the department is looking at its initiatives as outcomes and not merely just programs. To that end, Potts said the question becomes whether the department is serving the people in its programs well. Potts said the department is in the process of hiring parent ambassadors across the state, saying about families in need of services, “They often don’t know what they don’t know, and we help connect them.” Potts also said the Legislature has expanded the number of slots available in the department’s early education programs.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday that Ohio will become the first state in the nation to begin screening all newborn babies for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). The provision was included in HB33 (Edwards), the state’s budget bill for FY24-25. It added DMD to the list of 40 other rare medical conditions included in the Ohio Department of Health’s (ODH) Newborn Screening program. DMD is the most common hereditary neuromuscular disease and one of the most severe forms of inherited muscular dystrophies. An estimated 20,000 cases are diagnosed each year worldwide. It is characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. Symptom onset is in early childhood, usually between ages 2 and 3. There is currently no cure; however, new treatments through gene therapy can help slow the progression of symptoms and improve quality of life.

EDUCATION

Ohio school districts would have to adopt a policy limiting cell phone use to avoid distractions, as urged by Gov. Mike DeWine, under legislation approved Tuesday in the Senate Education Committee. The committee voted to report HB250 (Miranda-Richardson), initially written to change the Military Enlistment diploma seal, after adopting two amendments, both moved by Sen. Sandra O’Brien (R-Rome), the vice chair. DeWine recently used his “State of the State” speech to exhort schools to restrict cell phone use, referencing plans by Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), the committee chair, to move legislation on the topic. According to O’Brien, the amendment requires schools to adopt a policy governing use of cellular devices in schools, and directs the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) to create a model policy for schools to adopt should they opt not to create one of their own. The policies are to include exceptions for devices used as learning tools, for monitoring health conditions, or for those necessary as part of a student’s individualized education plan (IEP). The bill passed the Senate 32-0 on Wednesday.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) recently released its “State of Preschool 2023 Yearbook” report, showing states emerging from pandemic-era challenges but still behind pre-COVID benchmarks. The section on Ohio finds the state meeting five out of 10 possible benchmarks, ranking in the bottom half of states on access to preschool for 4-year-olds (36th) and 3-year-olds (26th), state-level spending (36th) and total spending (43rd). Ohio met quality standards set by NIEER for the following benchmarks:

– Early learning and development standards

– Curriculum supports – Teacher specialized training

– Screening and referrals for vision, hearing and more

– Continuous quality improvement system

Gov. Mike DeWine and Stephen D. Dackin, director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), Thursday announced the recipients of $3 million in grants to create programs for teachers who need to complete additional qualifications to teach college courses under the College Credit Plus program. Identified in consultation with the Ohio Department of Higher Education, the five awardees will use the funds to cover the costs of tuition, textbooks, and other materials to support teachers across various districts as they work to become credentialed to teach College Credit Plus courses at their high schools. Grantees for FY24 include the Educational Service Center of Northeast Ohio; Kent State University; East Central Ohio Educational Service Center; Montgomery County Educational Service Center; and the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

House Republicans unanimously voted Wednesday to seat Jack Daniels as the new 32nd District representative, succeeding ex-Rep. Bob Young, who resigned following domestic violence allegations. The chamber also formalized Democrats’ selection of Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) as their new minority whip, following the departure of Rep. Jessica Miranda to become Hamilton County auditor in the wake of former Rep. Brigid Kelly’s death.

The only substantial debate on legislation Wednesday in the House focused on HB230 (Abrams-Swearingen), a proposal to boost penalties for trafficking in humans and drugs that ultimately won bipartisan approval on a 79-13 vote. Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison), a joint sponsor, said the scourge of fentanyl has claimed numerous lives just since the bill’s introduction, noting the numerous families who’d come to committee hearings to tell their stories of loss. She highlighted elements of the legislation including a mandatory minimum sentence for causing a fentanyl-related death and enhanced penalties for trafficking in cocaine, fentanyl, heroin and meth. “We are not targeting those that are addicted. We are targeting those that knowingly traffic humans to sell illegal drugs in our state,” she said.

The House voted 90-1 in favor of HB322, meant to prevent child sexual abuse with a longer statute of limitations for failure to report by mandatory reporters and anti-grooming language aimed at people who show a pattern of inappropriate behavior toward minors. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said the language properly differentiates between a pat on the back to console a child or send them onto the field versus touches and behavior meant to entice or coerce a minor into sex.

The chamber voted 88-2 to approve new requirements for operation of unmanned aerial vehicles in HB77 (Willis). Rep. Bernard Willis (R-Springfield), the sponsor, said federal aviation regulations are now in place to address drone use, but without state standards, only federal prosecutors can address violations, making enforcement rare.

Also voted on Wednesday were the following measures:

– SB90 (Roegner), the latest in a series of interstate compacts on occupational licensure, this one addressing social workers, which passed 90-2.

– HB70 (Fowler Arthur-Gross), requiring schools to adopt policies on administering over-the-counter drugs, which passed 88-2.

– HB301 (Swearingen), an update to nonprofit laws, which passed 89-0.

– HB269, a road naming bill on which the House voted 92-0 to agree to Senate amendments.

– HB195, legislation regarding adaptive mobility vehicle dealers on which the House voted 91-2 to concur with Senate amendments.

The Senate dispatched five bills and two resolutions Wednesday in a string of unanimous votes that belied past and present partisan differences on several policies. The chamber sent HB161 (Miranda-Hillyer) to the governor after years of majority doubts about marital rape penalties and advanced continuing natural gas investment in SR121 (Rulli) 32-0 despite the Biden administration push for an all-renewable grid. A second resolution, SR241 (Johnson), moved to “condemn” the People’s Republic of China for global hostilities and domestic oppression.

Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), joint sponsor of the Senate companion to HB161 with Sen. Nathan Manning (R-N. Ridgeville), marked the long-fought battle for marital rape protections in Ohio. It passed unanimously.

Kunze then urged successful passage of adaptive mobility dealership legislation in HB195 (Demetriou-Brennan), while Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) spoke to HB250 (Miranda-Richardson), a bill that began with changes to Ohio’s military enlistment diploma seal but received a variety of changes in the last two days. It passed 32-0.

The Senate concluded with unanimous passage of SB109 (Hackett), which seeks to enact recommendations from Gov. Mike DeWine’s workgroup on the State Medical Board of Ohio’s handling of former Ohio State University (OSU) Dr. Richard Strauss’ sex abuse scandal; and SB214 (Kunze), which allows courts to expunge felony records of collateral crimes if it can be shown by clear and convincing evidence that the offender was a victim of human trafficking.

Legislation seeking to modernize county recorders’ offices across the state was reported out of the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee on Tuesday. The legislation, SB94 (Brenner-Landis), would require counties to provide an electronic means of recording instruments and of accessing recorded instruments in the near future, and would allow county recorders to charge a document preservation surcharge. The bill would also provide funding to counties that need financial assistance with some of the modernization provisions.

Two current and former state lawmakers and retired U.S. Air Force officers told the General Assembly Tuesday that the Communist Chinese Party (CCP) is actively working to undermine the U.S. and Ohio’s national security through commercial investment, land purchases and mass immigration to exploit the country’s federalist system. Joined by fellow witnesses for the Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) and other organizations, Rep. Bernard Willis (R-Springfield), a retired fighter pilot and colonel, and former Rep. Rick Perales, a member of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame who commanded the 788th Civil Engineer Squadron, addressed the House Civil Justice Committee, with Perales reprising his testimony later in the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee. They said HB212 (King-Klopfenstein) and SB226 (Johnson) are critical to protecting Ohio’s military and civil infrastructure from growing CCP control.

It’s time for Ohio to protect individuals exercising their First Amendment rights against frivolous lawsuits designed to silence them, Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) said Tuesday. “SB237 (Gavarone-Manning) directly combats the civil action known as a ‘strategic lawsuit against public participation,’ or more simply known as SLAPP,” Gavarone told the Senate Judiciary Committee during sponsor testimony. “Such lawsuits may be filed as a defamation, invasion of privacy, nuisance or other types of claims. However, these lawsuits are purposed to silence or intimidate an individual for exercising their rights to free speech, which is protected under both the Ohio and U.S. constitutions,” Gavarone continued. This legislation, which uses the framework of the Public Expression Protection Act created by the Uniform Law Commission, seeks to end these lawsuits, she said.

A dramatic drop in hemp growers left Ohio’s industry marketing program unable to support itself, and its operating committee should be eliminated as part of this cycle’s Sunset Review Committee work, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) staff told the committee Tuesday. Ohio legalized hemp cultivation five years ago via 133-SB57 (Hill-S. Huffman), but initial interest in the sector quickly tapered off. That prompted the agency recommendation for elimination of the Hemp Marketing Program Operating Committee. ODAg requested continued authorization for the remaining 13 entities under its jurisdiction that were before the committee for review Tuesday, including other industry marketing programs. The Sunset Review Committee is composed of three senators, three representatives, and three appointees of the governor. For this year, the committee is chaired by Sen. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro). Other legislators on the committee are Sens. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) and Al Landis (R-Dover) and Reps. Brett Hillyer (R-Dennison), Sean Brennan (D-Parma) and Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster). The appointments to the committee by Gov. Mike DeWine include Haylee E. Dunahay, former Rep. Rick Carfagna and H. Douglas Talbott.

As part of its hearing Wednesday, the Senate Government Oversight Committee conducted an occupational licensure review related to HB238, with testimony from the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS), Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) and Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC).

In sponsor testimony Wednesday on his HB416, Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) proposed licensing traffic camera dealers “who wish to operate and issue speeding tickets in Ohio.” He said that currently, the state of Ohio does not have any oversight of the traffic cameras that enforce Ohio laws. None of these companies are Ohio companies, and two of them are foreign companies, based in Sweden and Germany, he said. Patton went on to say that the Ohio Department of Taxation reports that traffic camera companies have collected $67.6 million in fines from Ohio motorists in FY20-23, with $33.3 million of it from speed cameras in Cuyahoga County alone. Traffic camera dealers receive between 30 percent and 40 percent of the gross receipts from these fines. “This means the out-of-state traffic camera dealers have taken between $20.3 million and $27 million from Ohio motorists,” Patton said.

Legislation explicitly protecting assistive reproductive technology like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is necessary to clear up any uncertainty about the legality of fertility treatment, Reps. Anita Somani (D-Dublin) and Beryl Brown Piccolantonio (D-Gahanna) said Wednesday. “First and foremost, this bill is about respecting and upholding the will of the voters in Ohio who resoundingly supported the constitutional right to make and carry out their own reproductive decisions, including fertility treatment. IVF is not a partisan issue, as Ohioans from across the political spectrum supported this amendment,” Brown Piccolantonio said during a Statehouse press conference announcing the bill. The legislation includes civil and criminal immunity for providers, facilities and health care personnel who provide assistive reproductive care, as well as for the patients seeking care. Also included are data protections for patients, ensuring that third party organizations, such as law enforcement agencies, do not have access to private medical information.

In other legislative action, the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB234 (Williams-Rogers) which addresses a judge’s consideration of an Alford plea; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB30 (Humphrey) which provides inmates with feminine hygiene products; and HB271 (Mathews-Peterson) which deals with the numbering order of ballot issues; the House Transportation Committee reported out highway naming bills HB335 (Swearingen) and HB320 (Jarrells-Pizzulli) and HB372 (Grim-Hoops) which addresses railroad crossing requirements; the Senate Finance Institutions and Technology Committee reported out SB94 (Brenner-Landis) which deals with mortgage, judicial and towing laws; the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported out HB308 (Stein-Brennan) which designates energy generated by nuclear reaction as green energy; the House Homeland Security Committee reported out HB230 (Abrams-Swearingen) which deals with drug trafficking; and HB194 (K. Miller) which authorizes contracting with a private vendor for issuing specialty license plates; the Senate Government Oversight Committee reported out cosmetology licensure compact bill SB89 (Roegner); the Senate Insurance Committee reported out SB175 (Lang) which deals with insurance regulation; and the Senate Transportation Committee reported out highway naming bill SB145 (Schaffer).

HIGHER EDUCATION

The Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee this week continued its series of capital budget presentations from the leaders of Ohio’s public universities that began earlier this month. Bowling Green State University (BGSU) President Rodney Rogers spoke of his university’s new and growing programs in forensics and various health care fields. In addition, Rogers touted BGSU’s efforts to rebuild its aviation program, being one of the few colleges in the U.S. with an airport on its campus. Additionally, BGSU has partnered with Cedar Point and King’s Island parent company Cedar Fair on a new resort management program. Miami University President Gregory Crawford touted his university’s new purchase of a manufacturing center in Hamilton, for which the university was able to partner with Butler County and the city of Hamilton in funding the purchase price. Crawford also said the university saved over $9 million from the demolition of North Hall on its main campus. Ohio University (OU) President Lori Gonzalez said OU had been ranked number one in Ohio as a “Best Value Public University” by U.S. News & World Report. She also said the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine has delivered health care to over 24,000 residents of Southeast Ohio in just the past year with its Mobile Clinic. She also said the university most recently got an A+ rating from S&P, pairing the institution’s good fiscal health with its importance to its home region. Shawnee State University President Eric Braun described his university as a key driver of economic recovery in the Appalachian region of Ohio, with over 90 percent of Shawnee State students being Ohio residents. Braun also thanked Gov. Mike DeWine for releasing $85 million in funds through the Appalachian Community Innovation Centers grant program. Central State University (CSU) interim President Alex Johnson said that CSU is Ohio’s only publicly supported historically black university, although he also made reference to CSU’s status as an 1890 Land Grant Institution. Johnson pointed to CSU’s budget shortfall, saying maintenance needs take up most of the requests. He also said the university’s One-time Strategic Community Investment Fund request would be used to provide additional opportunities for students to earn degrees for in-demand jobs, especially in health care, a point reiterated by CSU incoming President Morakinyo A.O. Kuti. Kuti also said that generally as an individual’s educational attainment rises, so does that individual’s personal health care outcomes.

JUDICIAL

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) this week went to the Ohio Supreme Court in defense of his legislative privilege, challenging trial and appellate decisions allowing voucher foes to question him in writing. As part of their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the EdChoice scholarship program, a coalition of school districts and resident families sought to depose Huffman, a major backer of vouchers. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jaiza Page answered his motion to quash with a ruling blocking an in-person deposition on the basis of legislative privilege but allowing the plaintiffs to pose up to 20 questions to Huffman in writing. Huffman appealed that ruling to the 10th District Court of Appeals, again on the grounds of legislative privilege, but a three-judge panel found his action premature. The judges ruled Page’s decision was not a final appealable order and that he couldn’t object to written questioning before seeing what specifically was asked or facing an order compelling him to provide answers.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Rising high school juniors and seniors can explore career opportunities in wildlife, parks, and conservation through the ODNR job shadow program. Job shadow day will be held Thursday, June 27. Students can apply from now through Friday, May 17 on the ODNR Job Shadow webpage at https://tinyurl.com/47r5za23.

TAXATION

As the Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform looks at potential solutions to rising property taxes around the state, one witness told the committee Wednesday that decoupling property taxes from the Fair School Funding Plan “may have very bad consequences,” a notion backed by Ohio school officials. Mike Sobul, a retired research administrator at the Ohio Department of Taxation, and the chief financial officer and treasurer at Granville Exempted Village Schools, gave the committee an overview of property taxes and what the Ohio Constitution and case law allows the state and local to entities to do and not do when it comes to implementing them. Summing it up, he told the committee that the Ohio Constitution has been very restrictive of what can and can’t be done with property taxes, and case law has supported that. He also said there are some issues that have never been litigated, and would need to be if they ever came about.

Posted by on April 29th, 2024

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