Week in Review > Week In Review 5-22-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on May 22nd, 2023
Opponents of an amendment that would require future Ohio constitutional amendments to reach a 60 percent threshold to be adopted filed a lawsuit Friday, May 12 seeking to block an August special election where voters will decide the issue. One Person One Vote, the opposition group to SJR2 (Gavarone-McColley), filed the lawsuit against Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Three Ohio voters who oppose the measure are also plaintiffs. They argue that the Ohio Revised Code, after passage of 134-HB458 (Hall), now only permits local August elections, and only in localities that are under a fiscal emergency. They seek a writ of mandamus directing LaRose to remove the constitutional amendment proposed by SJR2 from the Aug. 8 special election ballot and to instruct county election officials not to proceed with the special election.
Then this week, the ACLU of Ohio Thursday filed an amicus brief with the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of the Ohio League of Women Voters in a lawsuit challenging the use of an August special election for SJR2 (McColley-Gavarone), the 60 percent constitutional amendment, filed by One Person, One Vote.
SJR2 (McColley-Gavarone), the 60 percent constitutional amendment, was officially designated as State Issue 1 by the Ohio Ballot Board Thursday. The board also approved the ballot language and explanation of the proposed amendment. The ballot language was adopted on a 3-2 vote, with Democrats voting against it. It was written by staff of Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the chair of the Ballot Board.
The amendment is titled “Elevating the Standards to Qualify for and to Pass Any Constitutional Amendment.” The amendment would do the following:
– Require that any proposed amendment to the constitution of the state of Ohio receive the approval of at least 60 percent of eligible voters voting on the proposed amendment.
– Require that any initiative petition filed on or after Jan. 1, 2024 with the secretary of state proposing to amend the constitution of the state of Ohio be signed by at least 5 percent of the eligible voters of each county in the state.
– Specify that additional signatures may not be added to an initiative petition filed with the secretary of state on or after Jan. 1, 2024, proposing to amend the constitution of the state of Ohio.
As consideration of the biennial budget moves back to the Senate Finance Committee after weeks of hearings in other standing committees assigned to act as subcommittees, Finance Committee Chair Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) has set a three-week schedule of public testimony on HB33 (Edwards). All hearings are in the Senate Finance Hearing Room. Dates, times and topics are as follows:
– 9 a.m. Thursday, May 25, health and Medicaid.
– 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 30, general government.
– 9 a.m. Wednesday, May 31, education.
A Senate Finance Committee budget hearing on higher education and workforce topics Tuesday included several calls for a $24 million amendment to expand access to computer science education — a partial restoration of what the administration proposed but the House removed. While the House version of HB33 (Edwards) retained some of Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposals for computer science education, it removed much of the funding, including the $18.5 million to support the Computer Science Promise Program, which would allow students to enroll for free in a computer science course and get credit if their home school does not offer it. The House version also deleted language on the Teach CS grant program, which would support training for teachers in computer science, and on establishment of the Office of Computer Science in the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Multiple witnesses spoke in support of a draft amendment, SC1252, to provide a total of $24 million, as follows:
– $4 million per fiscal year for Teach CS grants
– $4 million per fiscal year for the Computer Science Promise Program
– $4 million per fiscal year for the Ohio Computer Science Council to provide after-school programming and other enrichment outside the classroom
Members of NFIB Ohio heard remarks from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) during the organization’s Small Business Day Wednesday, with each of the three officials including the budget in their comments. Huffman described Senate plans on changing tax policy, saying that will reward work and risk-taking, and focused on state spending for Medicaid and K-12 education as well. He compared those areas to “two big glaciers running side-by-side” and said there continue to be “record increases in spending” for both. Stephens also discussed income tax changes, saying they will be implemented “from the bottom up” with a flat 2.75 percent rate for those making up to $92,000 a year. He said the House version of the budget is “fiscally responsible” and
“utilizes the one-time investments” for the All-Ohio Future Fund and brownfield redevelopment while addressing economic growth and workforce development, protecting families and the most vulnerable, and committing to education across Ohio.
Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, head of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), addressed a nonprofit coalition focused on lead-safe housing Friday about state efforts on that topic as the administration pursues expanded prevention services driven by a new, lower threshold for flagging lead exposure in children. Gov. Mike DeWine’s as-introduced biennial budget for FY24-25 would expand funding for lead safety initiatives by an additional $8.5 million. However, the House version of HB33 (Edwards) instead opts for flat funding. Fred Strahorn, the former legislator and House minority leader from Dayton, now leads the Ohio Healthy Homes Network (OHHN), at whose conference Vanderhoff spoke. Strahorn said lead exposure in the first few years of children’s lives can pose lifelong challenges. “That damage tends to be permanent. You don’t get that time back … there is a cost to not fixing it,” he told Hannah News.
Ohio START announced the expansion of its model to include Perry and Muskingum counties, marking the addition of a sixth cohort and bringing the total number of participating counties to 56. Ohio START (Sobriety, Treatment and Reducing Trauma) is an evidence-based intervention that helps families struggling with both substance use disorder and children services involvement by creating teams of caseworkers, family peer mentors and behavioral health providers to support them. START is an evidence-based prevention service designed to keep children safely with family when possible so that they do not have to enter foster care.
Warren G. Morgan, chief academic officer for Indianapolis Public Schools, will be the new superintendent of Cleveland Metropolitan School District, community leaders announced recently. Morgan will succeed Eric Gordon, who has been superintendent since 2011 and previously served as chief academic officer.
The Columbus City Schools Board of Education announced Tuesday that Angela Chapman, the district’s interim superintendent since December, will be promoted to permanent superintendent. She is succeeding Talisa Dixon, who retires at the end of the school year. Chapman was one of three finalists, alongside Brian McDonald of Pasadena and Eric Thomas of Minneapolis. She joined the district as chief of transformation and leadership in 2019 and previously worked in Washington, D.C. Schools, Massillon City Schools, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools and Euclid City Schools.
State lawmakers Tuesday presented two different visions for social studies education in Ohio. Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) was joined by advocacy groups to introduce her legislation, HB171, to add instruction about more diverse groups of people to Ohio’s social studies model curriculum. Later in the day, the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee heard a wave of opposition to Reps. Don Jones (R-Freeport) and Tracy Richardson’s (R-Marysville) bill, HB103, to overhaul the state’s social studies standards with more “liberty focused” principles.
Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) member schools passed 12 of the 13 proposed revisions to the organization’s constitution and bylaws, OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute announced Tuesday.
Each member school had one vote on each item, which was cast by the high school principal. Nearly every school voted, with 814 of OHSAA’s 818 member high schools casting their ballot, OHSAA said in a release. Issue 1B, which would have permitted a student enrolled at a public school that does not sponsor a team sport to potentially play that sport at a public school located in a bordering public school district, failed for a second consecutive year, this time by a margin of 427 to 374 (13 abstained). The margin was significantly greater than the 2022 vote, where the proposal failed by 13 votes (406 to 393), the closest vote in documented OHSAA history.
The Ohio Department of Education is seeking submissions of curricula on child sexual abuse prevention and sexual violence prevention, per new requirements for instruction in those subjects under 134-SB288 (Manning). The law requires schools to provide instruction in child sexual abuse prevention for K-6 students and sexual violence prevention education for those in grades 7-12. It also requires ODE to provide links to free curricula. A form is available on ODE’s webpage on child sexual abuse, dating violence and sexual violence prevention at https://tinyurl.com/5xh2edby. The deadline to submit curricula is Friday, May 26.
In its first meeting of 2023, the Commission on Infant Mortality heard legislative updates on the state operating budget, HB33 (Edwards), as well as on other legislation designed to improve the health of children and families. Kara Wente, director of the Governor’s Office of Children’s Initiatives, discussed the governor’s budget proposal to create a new state department called the Department of Children and Youth, as well as a range of other budget initiatives. The commission also heard from Reps. Andrea White (R-Kettering) and Latyna Humphrey (D-Columbus), the co-sponsors of HB7, the so-called “Strong Foundations Act.” The bill contains a number of provisions designed to reduce Ohio’s infant and maternal mortality rates. Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) discussed her bill, SB93 (Reynolds-Hicks-Hudson), to expand Medicaid coverage to doula services — similar language is also contained in HB7. Lynanne Gutierrez, chief operating and policy officer at Groundwork Ohio, also discussed that group’s priorities for the budget, which include investments in prenatal care, and other early invention services in education and health care for children.
Child care advocacy professionals argued the case Monday for increased spending and access for early learning as a key to Ohio’s workforce and economic challenges and to addressing K-12 learning gaps.
The virtual meeting of the Legislative Children’s Caucus included presentations from Pre4CLE, which works to increase access to high quality early childhood programs in Cleveland, and Groundwork Ohio, which advocates broadly on early childhood issues.
The House Commerce and Labor Committee heard two bills Tuesday dealing with the cosmetology and barbering profession, including sponsor testimony on legislation that aims to update the statutes but leaves out the debate over training hours that have held up previous efforts. Reps. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield) and Melanie Miller (R-Ashland) gave sponsor testimony on HB158 (Roemer-M. Miller), with the sponsors noting that the cosmetology and barbering statutes have not been updated since Gov. John Kasich’s administration combined the two professions into one board in 2017. Roemer said the bill has two goals in mind: to better reflect the current standards, procedures and terminology used by the Board of Cosmetology and Barbering, and to better serve aspiring cosmetologists and barbers who may be unduly burdened when trying to enter the field. The committee also heard opponent testimony on HB58 (Gross).
In other action, the House Agriculture Committee reported out HB162 (Klopfenstein-Kick) to officially designate agriculture-related days/weeks; the House Pensions Committee reported out HCR6 (King-Plummer) which urges Congress to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision; and HB146 (Bird) which establishes a SERS benefit cap; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB101 (Bird-Schmidt) which deals with village dissolution; and the House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB121 (Blasdel-Mathews) which deals with remote workers and the municipal income tax.
A study released by the Inter-University Council of Ohio (IUC) showed that Ohio’s 14 public universities delivered $68.9 billion in total economic impact in FY21-22, or 8.8 percent of the state’s total gross state product. The study was conducted by independent consulting firm Lightcast on behalf of IUC. The analysis showed that the operations, construction, clinical, research, entrepreneurial, visitor and student spending of the public universities, together with volunteerism and the enhanced productivity of their alumni, combined for the $68.9 billion impact. It said that the effect is larger than the entire health care and social assistance industry in the state. In addition to the economic impact, it said that activities of the public universities and their students support 855,782 positions, or one in eight Ohio jobs.
Ohio State University (OSU) and mental health company Inner State Inc. have received the first U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) license to grow whole psilocybin mushrooms at a U.S. university for research. OSU and Inner State plan to use the license to significantly advance the study of the mental health treatment capabilities of naturally-grown psychedelic mushrooms, Inner State said. Psilocybin has shown promise in treating a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, PTSD, anxiety, and addiction, according to Inner State. However, due to its classification as a Schedule I drug, research into whole psilocybin mushrooms has been severely restricted in the U.S.
The Senate passed a broad higher education overhaul bill Wednesday after a final round of committee changes, while opponents turned out in large numbers to oppose a companion measure in the House. Detractors of the bill at the Statehouse wore stickers, carried signs and covered their mouths with tape to express opposition. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said parts of the bill could end up in the Senate’s version of the biennial budget, particularly the proposal for shorter terms for university trustees.
Under SB83, sponsored by Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), institutions of higher education would be required to have syllabi posted online for all courses; to set policies generally barring most mandatory diversity training programs; to include American government and history courses as a degree requirement; and to refuse gifts or contributions from the government of China or organizations suspected to be working on behalf of that government. It would also prohibit university employees from striking, among many other provisions. The final 21-10 Senate vote saw Democrats joined in opposition by three Republicans — Sens. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati), Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester).
The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Thursday announced a new designation for colleges, universities and Ohio technical centers working to make their campuses supportive of foster care-connected students. The “Ohio Reach Postsecondary” designation will be awarded to those campuses meeting “foster friendly” criteria to be supportive of students with experience in foster care or kinship.
“Ohio Reach is a network of professionals, advocates and students across Ohio determined to support former foster youth on their education journey. Ohio Reach, administered through the Ohio Children’s Alliance, provides resources to institutions of higher education, child welfare agencies, and foster care alumni enrolled in higher education to support their academic success,” the department said.
The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees voted Thursday to grant a 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retirees and delay for five years a planned increase in the career length needed to qualify for full benefits. Under the 2012 pension reform law, the number of years a teacher must work in order to qualify for full retirement benefits has been gradually rising and was set to increase to 35 years later in 2023. Under action of the board Thursday, that increase will be delayed five years, keeping the years-of-service requirement at 34 years. The 1 percent COLA is the second, one-time increase granted following a five-year freeze the system instituted in 2017 to help shore up long-term finances, a move that sparked widespread retiree discontent. Meanwhile, the recently removed gubernatorial appointee to the board, Wade Steen, said he’s retained an attorney as he disputes the validity of his replacement.
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