Week in Review > Week in Review 5-1-2023Posted by Paul Imhoff on May 01st, 2023
ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Member schools of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) will vote on whether the organization’s executive director will retain — with modifications — the authority to suspend strict compliance of OHSAA rules under certain circumstances, such as a pandemic. That amendment to the OHSAA constitution is one of 13 proposed bylaw/constitution changes that will be considered during the annual referendum period. Schools can vote from Monday, May 1 through Monday, May 15, and results will be announced on Tuesday, May 16. The OHSAA “COVID Rule” was implemented in Spring 2020, and is set to expire at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.
A large, bipartisan majority of the House voted Wednesday to approve a two-year budget plan that advances implementation of the new school funding formula, boosts pay for direct service providers caring for older Ohioans and those with disabilities, and moves Ohio closer to a flat income tax structure. The chamber ducked consideration of any floor amendments to HB33 (Edwards) when, after several representatives favoring passage had spoken, Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) rose to call the previous question, triggering a vote to end debate, which passed 74-23. The bill itself then passed 77-19. During breaks in floor remarks, several Republicans repeatedly stood to call for recognition or move amendments, but Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) instead recognized others who were urging passage of the bill.
Speaker Stephens also took the unusual step of avoiding reporters’ questions after the day’s session, stepping off the dais to make a short statement about passage of the budget and then walking away. “Today is a big day for Ohio. We passed a balanced budget that is focused on everyday Ohioans. We focused on tax cuts for middle income Ohioans. We’ve included education funding on all fronts for Ohioans. We’re investing in our future on all fronts, and it’s a really good day for Ohio, and I was really pleased with the support throughout the House,” he said.
Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), chair of the House Finance Committee, touted the bill’s investments in economic development via the All Ohio Future Fund, support for families via increases in child care and preschool funding and a sales tax exemption on baby products, and growth in direct care workers’ wages from $13 per hour now to $18 per hour by the end of the coming biennium — this after the full committee accepted close to 200 additional changes to the operating budget Tuesday before passing it with only one dissenting vote. Changes to the HB33 (Edwards) adopted via an omnibus amendment address a state Next Generation 9-1-1 system, an expanded state role and funding for indigent defense, $15 million in additional support per year for foodbanks, and home purchase savings accounts supported by Gov. Mike DeWine and Treasurer Robert Sprague.
Those voting against the budget on the House floor included Reps. Thad Claggett (R-Newark), Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria), Bill Dean (R-Xenia), Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville), Elliot Forhan (D-South Euclid), Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula), Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester), Marilyn John (R-Shelby), Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), Angie King (R-Celina), Beth Lear (R-Galena), Susan Manchester (R-Lakeview), Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky), Derek Merrin (R-Maumee), Joe Miller (D-Amherst), Jena Powell (R-Arcanum), Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Minerva), Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) and Bernard Willis (R-Springfield).
The House Public Health Policy Committee Tuesday heard from parents and individuals who are de-transitioning in favor of a proposed ban on gender services for minors, HB68 (Click). Prisha Mosely, Chloe Cole, and an individual who identified herself as Xandra, all testified that they began taking hormone therapy as teenagers to transition their gender to a male, and in some cases having cosmetic surgery, before later regretting it and moving back to being a woman. They described complications including damage to their genitals and infertility from the process. They also described struggles with mental health in the years before deciding to transition.
Legislation that would make changes to a number of programs aimed at bringing down the state’s infant mortality rate was officially unveiled Tuesday as the House Families and Aging Committee accepted a substitute version of HB7 (White-Humphrey), also dubbed the “Strong Foundations Act,” replacing the legislative intent statement of the introduced bill with the full text of the proposal. White said the bill would help to address Ohio’s infant and maternal mortality problems and is sharply focused on improving health and developmental outcomes for babies, mothers and families by expanding prenatal, postnatal and infant and toddler services and supports.
Ohio has regained all jobs lost during COVID-19 and continues to see unemployment drop steadily since December, based on figures released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Friday. The state’s jobless rate of 3.8 percent in March is 0.1 percent less than in February but still well off the national average of 3.5 percent, which also fell 0.1 percent, and higher than neighboring Indiana’s 3.1 percent and West Virginia’s 3.4 percent unemployment. WalletHub now puts Ohio’s overall employment performance — a combination of the current jobless figure and the rate of change since the prior month and year-over-year results — at 34th nationally, below West Virginia at 13th and Indiana at 28th but higher than Pennsylvania (4.2 percent) at 41st and Michigan (4.1 percent) at 42nd .
The House-passed version of the state budget makes significant cuts to certain literacy investments compared to the executive budget proposal, though it increases education spending overall, Interim State Superintendent Stephanie Siddens said Thursday. Siddens and Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Budget Chief Aaron Rausch reviewed differences between the House-passed version of HB33 (Edwards) and the DeWine-Husted budget recommendations while presenting in the Senate Education Committee. “The DeWine-Husted budget recommends appropriations totaling $10.5 billion in FY24 (an increase of $680 million or 6.9 percent) and $10.7 billion in FY25 (an additional $196 million or 1.9 percent) from the General Revenue Fund (GRF) and Lottery Profits Education Fund (LPEF). The executive budget includes an additional $1.56 billion in new GRF and LPEF for primary and secondary education over the biennium. The House-passed version of the budget adds nearly $990 million in funding over the biennium, resulting in $2.54 billion in additional resources for primary and secondary education from the GRF and LPEF,” Rausch said.
According to the recently released 2020-2021 Prevention Services Data Report from the DeWine administration, 95 percent of Ohio schools offered prevention-focused programs and supports, while more than 81 percent of schools offered prevention-focused curricula. “Providing students with the tools they need to better cope with life stressors in healthy, safe, supportive ways helps individuals build resiliency and reduces risk factors,” Gov. Mike DeWine said in a prepared statement. “Prevention services are part of educating the whole child, meeting their wellness, as well as their academic needs. This approach sets them up for success throughout their lives.”
With the Biden administration working on interim rules that will increase the flexibility of certain federal COVID-19 funds and a federal funding bill giving an extension on the deadline for when the funds should be used, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) urged states to avoid diverting the funds for other purposes. NSCL released a statement saying it supports “smart, efficient use of funds provided for pandemic relief, such as the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund (SLFRF). Congress has only recently allowed increased flexibility for SLFRF as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023.” Noting that the Department of Treasury is still working on providing interim rules governing how the funds may be spent under increased flexibility, NCSL said states have accordingly not acted and are reluctant to apply for funding until there is clarity.
Neighboring U.S. Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) and Mike Carey (R-Columbus) met Monday at the intersection of their districts in downtown Columbus to announce their revival of the Civility Caucus. The two spoke at a gathering of the Columbus Partnership, whose CEO, Kenny McDonald, said the focus on civility and finding areas of agreement is important to an organization focused on getting things done for the Central Ohio region. Beatty and former U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, now head of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, previously formed a Civility Caucus a few years ago, and now she and Carey are bringing it back.
Wednesday, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed SB16 (Wilson) and SB49 (Reynolds). According to Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) SB16 fixes an oversight addressing liability after the General Assembly previously passed legislation allowing food to be donated to certain nonprofit organizations that was past the “sell by date” but not past the “use by date.” Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) supported the bill but said lawmakers will also need to address a food shortage and food insecurity crisis. Meanwhile, Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Columbus) said her SB49 would provide three excused religious expression absences for students per year. She said the bill is similar to accommodations that were made for higher education institutions in 134-HB353.
After session, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said he likes the concept in the budget bill, HB33 (Edwards), added by the Ohio House, to collapse the middle tax bracket, but would like to expand it so it is truly an $800 million to $1 billion tax cut. He said the Senate could still add SB1 (Reineke) changing the functions of the State Board of Education to the budget, but said he is not sure where the House is in their process with the bill.
The House Higher Education Committee Wednesday picked up where it left off the previous week, hearing another round of opposition to HB6 (Powell), a bill that would ban trans athletes from school and college sports. While proponents of the legislation have dubbed it the “Save Women’s Sports Act” and said the bill is needed to ensure fairness in women’s and girls’ sports, many of those who testified Wednesday said they believe the bill will hurt women and girls by creating an “an environment of suspicion and rejection” and opening up girls to questions about their bodies. They told lawmakers HB6 has little to do with ensuring fairness in competition and more to do with forcing trans people “out of public spaces” while securing “political power.”
The Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus spent Monday’s meeting talking about the state’s educator shortage, including the reasons behind it and how other states are handling similar issues. Speakers during the meeting included Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Scott DiMauro, Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) President Melissa Cropper, and Molly Gold, senior education policy specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
House Democrats Tuesday held a press conference to highlight their “people first” legislative priorities, which are focused on a range of issues including infrastructure, workforce issues, education, the environment, health care and housing. The lawmakers highlighted legislative proposals like HB2 (Cutrona-Upchurch) to invest in economic and community developments; HB112 (Sweeney-Miranda) on campaign finance law to “close dark money loopholes”; HB9 (Manning-Lightbody) to establish the “Grow Your Own Teacher Program”; HB39 (Skindell-Isaacsohn) to create a refundable tax credit for working families; HB7 (White-Humphrey) to address infant and maternal mortality rates; as well as legislation for housing and workplace protections for LGBTQ people, increasing access to child care, gun violence prevention, increasing access to mental health services; improving affordability of senior care, housing tax credits and more.
The Senate Community Revitalization Committee heard presentations at its Tuesday meeting from Jennifer Martinez, vice president of behavioral health operations for the Volunteers of America/Ohio and Indiana, and Teresa Lampl, CEO of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers. Martinez testified on the Family Focused Recovery Program that her agency is looking to establish in Columbus. Lampl followed with extensive testimony on the current status of Ohio’s community behavioral system of care. Noting that the “landscape” of behavioral health “has drastically changed in the past decade,” Lampl highlighted those changes which include the overhaul of clinical and operational practices that have included “establishing a Medicaid fee schedule, elevating, and centralizing Medicaid payments with the state, rescinding antiquated cost reporting requirements, implementing behavioral health redesign, and the integration of the Medicaid benefit into managed care.”
In other action, the House Health Provider Services Committee reported out HB47 (Brown-Bird) which requires AEDs in schools; the House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB105 (J. Thomas) which addresses extensions for filing the municipal income tax; the House Public Health Policy Committee reported out HB28 (Humphrey) designating March as “Triple Negative Breast Cancer Awareness Month”; and the Senate Government Oversight Committee reported out SB53 (Reynolds-Roegner) which lowers the minimum age for police officers to 18 from 21.
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