Week in Review > Week In Review 5-15-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on May 15th, 2023
Voters can go to the polls in August to decide whether the Ohio Constitution should be more difficult to amend under a joint resolution adopted by Republicans in the House and Senate on Wednesday. While there were questions about whether the House had the 60 votes necessary to adopt SJR2 (McColley) heading into session, the measure ultimately passed 62-37 after several passionate speeches from lawmakers and demonstrations by protesters in the gallery. Reps. Jamie Callender (R-Concord), Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), Brett Hillyer (R-Dennison), Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) and Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) joined Democrats in voting against SJR2. The House voted 56-42 to add the Aug. 8, 2023 election date to SJR2, with Reps. Callender, Edwards, Hillyer, LaRe, Patton, Jon Cross (R-Kenton), Adam Holmes (R-Nashport), Mike Loychik (R-Cortland), Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) joining Democrats in voting against the amendment. After the House approved SJR2, the Senate concurred with House amendments by a vote of 26-7. Secretary of State Frank LaRose tweeted that he had instructed county boards of elections to begin preparing for an election on Tuesday, Aug. 8.
Four major business organizations on Thursday announced their support for the measure to make the Ohio Constitution more difficult to amend. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), Ohio Restaurant Association, and Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association said the Ohio Constitution “should not be subject to changes based on fleeting public opinion. For far too long, the Ohio Constitution has been an easy target for those seeking to enact anti-business policies or further narrow special interest initiatives outside of the traditional legislative process. Currently, there is an effort to massively increase Ohio’s minimum wage and eliminate the tipped wage, which is the latest example. Ironically, Ohio already has a minimum wage that is indexed for inflation,” the groups said in a news release. Many other groups across the state also registered their support or opposition to the ballot measure.
Most voters believe the state shouldn’t make it more difficult to amend the Ohio Constitution, according to a new poll. The survey, conducted by an organization that opposes the proposal to increase the threshold to pass constitutional amendments from a simple majority to 60 percent, found that only 21 percent of Ohio voters would support the amendment, and 52 percent oppose it. “The poll shows that Ohioans support majority rule, and wholeheartedly oppose an effort by out-of-state special interests to make it more difficult for voters to make decisions on issues that matter most to them,” One Person One Vote said in a news release.
According to preliminary figures released Friday by the Office of Budget and Management (OBM), April revenues came in $178.1 million or 6 percent below estimates. However, for the year-to-date, revenues exceed estimates by $626.6 million or 2.7 percent. The April shortfall was driven by the Personal Income Tax, which was $122.3 million or 8.2 percent below estimates. Both categories of the sales tax were also below estimates: the non-auto sales tax by $39.4 million or 3.7 percent and the auto sales tax by $25.9 million or 13.6 percent, for a total sales tax shortfall of $65.3 million or 5.2 percent. The only major tax to come in above estimate was the Commercial Activity Tax, by $4.8 million or 5.4 percent.
A number of witnesses appeared Thursday before the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee to urge the restoration of computer science funding they said had been stripped from budget bill HB33 (Edwards). The witnesses also advocated for the importance of training more teachers to be able to educate students in computer science. Ohio State Professor Chris Orban noted that Intel has begun construction on its chip plant in Central Ohio, and said there is an expectation that Ohio is serious about those Silicon Valley companies with an eye on Ohio, but said having no money for computer science education “is not what serious looks like.” He also said computer science education has not been going well in the state, with less than four of every 100 high school students taking computer science last year, and the number of public high schools in Ohio offering computer science dropping from 50 to 48 percent.
Publicly-funded child care should be available to families at 200 percent of the federal poverty level, leaders of the Care Economy Organization (CEO) Project said Monday at a news conference. Gov. Mike DeWine proposed to increase eligibility for publicly-funded child care from 142 percent to 160 percent in his executive budget, and the House retained that provision in its version of the FY24-25 budget bill, HB33 (Edwards). While that is a step in the right direction, CEO Project Organizing Director Tami Lunan said increasing eligibility to 200 percent would provide a much larger benefit to Ohio families and the economy. The event took place on the 2023 “Day Without Child Care” national day of action, during which many child care providers closed or called off work in order to show how important they are to the rest of the economy.
In a busy State Board of Education (SBOE) meeting Tuesday, members voted to appoint Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Chief Program Officer Chris Woolard as the next interim state superintendent following the departure of current Interim Superintendent Stephanie Siddens. In other action, the board voted to award a contract to the search firm Ray & Associates in their hunt for a permanent leader of the state education department.
The SBOE also approved a resolution from board member Teresa Fedor, a former state lawmaker, to request a formal opinion from the Ohio attorney general regarding the constitutionality of legislation to drastically restructure ODE and the SBOE. The resolution notes the 1953 constitutional amendment in which voters removed the Department of Education from the executive office of the governor and created the State Board of Education. “Section 4 [of the Ohio Constitution] states that the board shall appoint a superintendent of public instruction and that the respective powers and duties of the superintendent and the board shall be prescribed by law, for which the General Assembly has provided enabling language for nearly 70 years,” the resolution states. The resolution asks for Attorney General Dave Yost’s formal opinion on the conformity of SB1 (Reineke) and HB12 (Jones-Dobos) to the Ohio Constitution.
In committee work Monday, the SBOE advanced a recommendation to increase the reading cut score needed for students to advance to fourth grade and revisited an administrative rule that drew an extraordinary legislative rebuke in the last session. Under state law, most students must meet a promotion score on the third grade English language arts test in order to advance from third to fourth grade, and the board must increase that score annually. The score is required to be equivalent to the proficiency score of 700 by the 2024-2025 academic year. The board’s Literacy and Learning Acceleration Committee voted to increase the cut score for the 2023-2024 academic year to 690, up from this year’s 685.
SBOE members this week heard a deep dive on the differences between the House-passed and executive versions of the state operating budget, HB33 (Edwards). Interim State Superintendent Stephanie Siddens was joined by Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Budget Chief Aaron Rausch and Policy and Legislative Affairs Director Jennie Stump in this effort. Changes to literacy funding are among the most substantial differences between the executive budget and the House-passed version of the budget. DeWine’s budget allocated $86 million over the biennium to support professional development, including providing stipends for science of reading instruction of $1,200 for K-5 teachers, English teachers for grades 6-12, and other intervention specialists, as well as stipends of $400 for middle and high school teachers in other content areas. The House budget halved the professional development funding to $43 million over the biennium — also cutting in half the amount teachers would receive in stipends.
The House Primary and Secondary Education Committee moved legislation Tuesday to repeal the retention mandate in the Kasich-era reading guarantee law. The committee voted 14-0 to report out HB117 (Manning-Robinson), which would end the requirement to retain in third grade students who can’t reach the cut score on the third grade English language arts (ELA) tests, but which would also expand to additional grades the intervention services provided to students who are reading below grade level.
In other action, the House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out SB30 (Schaffer) to allow teens under 16 to work after 7 p.m. during the school year; and SCR2 (Schaffer), which urges Congress to permit teens under 16 to work between 7 and 9 p.m. during the school year; the House Government Oversight Committee reported out HB100 (K. Miller), which prohibits restrictions on flying the Thin Blue Line Flag; the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB117 (Manning-Robinson), which eliminates the Third Grade Read Retention policy; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HCR5 (J. Miller-Holmes), which supports the Ohio Commission for America250; the House Transportation Committee reported out two highway naming bills, HB107 (Patton) and HB128 (Cutrona); the House Higher Education Committee reported out HB6 (Powell), which enacts a single-sex team requirement; and the House Homeland Security Committee reported out for a second time HB29 (Humphrey-Brewer), which revises driver’s license suspensions for failing to pay child support.
Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Provost Ben Vinson III will step down at the end of June to become the 18th president of Howard University, located in Washington D.C., which is among the top historically Black higher education institutions the country. Vinson joined CWRU in 2018 after serving five years as dean of George Washington University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. He previously held leadership positions at Johns Hopkins University and served on the faculties of Pennsylvania State University and Barnard College.
A longtime communications leader at the University of Toledo (UT) has been promoted to lead the Office of Marketing and Communications. Meghan Cunningham, who joined UT in 2010 and most recently served as executive director of marketing and communications, will now serve as vice president of marketing and communications.
Sponsors and supporters of new policies on campus speech and thought testified Wednesday in the House Higher Education Committee as it took up that chamber’s companion to Sen. Jerry Cirino’s (R-Kirtland) SB83. The committee led off the first hearing on HB151, sponsored by Reps. Steve Demetriou (R-Chagrin Falls) and Josh Williams (R-Oregon), by adopting a substitute bill that aligns it with the latest version of SB83, which was updated by the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee Tuesday. Cirino himself also briefly addressed the committee in support of the bill. Demetriou said the bill is summarized in three words: “Transparency. Meritocracy. Equality.” Those are achieved by provisions that, for example, require online syllabi posting for each class, create review processes for tenured faculty, and bars institutions from taking certain political stances. Williams said his experience as a professor and recent college graduate exposed him to a “decline of open dialogue” on campuses. He described being called “a Nazi, a slaver trader, an afront to my race and an Uncle Tom” for speaking out against “open-border” immigration policies.
Xavier University (XU) recently announced plans to establish the nation’s first Jesuit College of Osteopathic Medicine on the university’s campus. The medical college’s focus on osteopathy, a holistic, patient-centered approach to medicine that focuses primarily on preventive health care, aligns particularly well with Xavier’s identity and its Jesuit Catholic mission, said Xavier University President Colleen Hanycz. Xavier said it hopes to welcome its inaugural class in 2027 and send off its first graduates in 2031. The inaugural class is expected to include 75 students, with plans to gradually expand class sizes to 150 per class.
A challenger handily unseated an incumbent on the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees over the weekend, while Gov. Mike DeWine decided just before the results were announced to replace his own appointee, Wade Steen, who declined a request to resign. Berea City Schools teacher Pat Davidson overwhelmingly defeated incumbent Portsmouth City Schools teacher Arthur Lard, getting 20,410 votes to Lard’s 8,853. Davidson will take office in September of this year and serve through August of 2027.
On Friday afternoon, ahead of Saturday’s election results release, DeWine appointed investor G. Brent Bishop of Dublin to a board seat held by Steen, former Franklin County treasurer. DeWine’s office said Steen was asked to resign before being replaced, and cited his attendance record at board meetings as precipitating the move. Steen said in a statement he thinks the move was “a clerical error” by staff and argued he’s entitled to serve the remainder of his term, but DeWine’s office believes he serves at the pleasure of the governor. Dan Tierney, DeWine spokesman, deferred to STRS on specifics of Steen’s attendance but said they’d heard of a “pattern” of Steen’s missing meetings, attending them only in part and leaving early.
The Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) voted Thursday to approve a staff recommendation favoring passage of SB6 (Schuring), which would bar state pension funds from making investment decisions primarily driven by environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns. Democratic lawmakers on the council dissented, questioning the necessity of the bill and expressing concern about the need to respond to climate change. The council also questioned leadership of State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) on its bonus pay structure for investment staff, which has been a source of retiree criticism about how the system is run.
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