Week in Review > Week In Review 5-6-24

Posted by on May 08th, 2024

APPALACHIA

Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik Wednesday announced the awarding of more than $154 million in grants to fund economic development projects in Ohio’s Appalachian region as they made stops in McArthur and Chillicothe. The grants will go to 30 economic development projects in Appalachian Ohio meant to revitalize downtowns and improve the area’s profile as a travel destination. The 30 projects are spread across 12 counties in the region and the awards are part of the “Appalachian Downtowns and Destinations Initiative.” In addition to downtown revitalization, the funds will be spent to create new opportunities for recreation, amplify the visitor experience at cultural sites and lead to hubs for education, economic development, health care and community engagement in areas that have not had them before.

FY25-26 CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS

Capital budget requests submitted by state agencies for consideration as part of FY25-26 capital appropriations legislation were provided to Hannah News this week. The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) released two dozen agency requests Wednesday night in response to a public records request. Hannah has provided a more in-depth look at the requests from specific agencies. The DeWine administration and lawmakers will ultimately decide what projects are included in the capital budget.

Administration of more than 20 additional taxes would move to the new Ohio Tax System (OTS) under the Ohio Department of Taxation’s (ODT) plans for the FY25-26 capital biennium. The new system went live last year to handle personal and school district income taxes. ODT’s request for the upcoming capital budget is among two dozen provided to Hannah News in response to a public records request. ODT is working with vendor Fast Enterprises, developer of the GenTax software system, used by dozens of other jurisdictions as well.

An additional $50 million for the previously authorized Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility (JCF) replacement project due to inflation and $67 million for new housing at Indian Hill JCF make up the bulk of capital funding requests submitted by the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS). However, the official agency request for the FY25-26 capital biennium was submitted in early November, shortly before Gov. Mike DeWine launched a juvenile justice workgroup that has since recommended DYS operate more and smaller facilities rather than its three relatively larger JCFs. Asked about this dynamic, DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the working group deliberations and the capital budget recommendation process were on separate timelines. The total agency request is about $147 million for FY25-26.

Ohio’s prison system is planning nearly $1 billion in capital spending through FY30 for “emergency” safety and security, even without the other $1 billion it would take to build a new penitentiary for the agency’s decaying structures and growing population. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) is seeking over $295 million in FY25-26; a 22 percent increase to more than $360 million in FY27-28; and a modest decrease from the approaching biennium to $275 million in FY29-30. Each biennial proposal of DRC’s six-year plan dwarfs its $143 million capital budget in FY21-22 and follows a whopping $617 million appropriation in the current biennium.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education’s (ODHE) FY25-26 capital budget request totals nearly $57.5 million to fund campus safety and security grants, workforce training, the Ohio Supercomputer Center, the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK), and more. The request, dated Nov. 3, 2023, “contains a similar composition of projects as requested in prior capital biennia,” former ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner said in the document’s introduction. Current Chancellor Mike Duffey took over in January this year. The topline request is $7.5 million for the Ohio College Safety and Security Grant Program, which was established by Gov. Mike DeWine for physical security updates to public campuses.

EDUCATION

The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) is asking a Warren County judge not to adopt his magistrate’s recommendation that the agency be enjoined from enforcing corrective action plans against the Warren County Educational Service Center (ESC) in a special education dispute. Warren County ESC sued DEW over corrective action plans it issued in response to an investigation stemming from a complaint filed by Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), a nonprofit designated by the state to advocate for people with disabilities. DRO has since filed to intervene as a party to the lawsuit as well, although the same magistrate recommended DRO not be allowed to intervene.

U.S. school funding rose by the greatest proportion in more than two decades from FY21 to FY22, according to recent Census Bureau survey results. Ohio ranked 22nd among states and Washington, D.C. in per student FY22 spending at $15,583. The No. 1 state was New York at $28,889, while the last was Utah at $9,552. Among Ohio’s neighbors, Pennsylvania ranked sixth at $19,186, Michigan 21st at $15,719, West Virgina 29th at $13,858 and Indiana 38th at $12,322. From FY21 to FY22, national school spending rose 8.9 percent from an average of $14,358 per student to $15,633, the largest increase in more than 20 years. Full survey data are at https://tinyurl.com/3rynxxvm.

The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is now taking applications for funding that can cover up to three quarters of the cost of certain school safety measures. Up to $73 million is available nationwide for the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP), with a maximum federal share of a project’s cost of $500,000 and a 25 percent local cost share. Among eligible projects are the following:

– Coordination with law enforcement.

– Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence against others and self.

– Metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures.

– Technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency.

– Any other measure that the COPS Office determines may provide a significant improvement in security. The application process closes at 4:59 p.m. Monday, June 17, although the application entails a two-step process for which the first part is due by Tuesday, June 11. More information about the program and application process is at https://cops.usdoj.gov/svpp.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) Wednesday removed six committee chairs from their positions for reportedly supporting the primary opponents of sitting Republican caucus members. The six removed were House Agriculture Chair Rep. Rodney Creech (R-Germantown), House Constitutional Resolutions Chair Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), House Energy and Natural Resources Chair Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), House Primary and Secondary Education Chair Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati), House Public Health Policy Committee Chair Rep. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin), and House State and Local Government Chair Rep. Marilyn John (R-Shelby). A memo to House Clerk Brad Young states that the positions “shall remain vacant until further action is taken by the speaker.”

With results in hand from a closed-door vote earlier this month on a resolution giving control of the campaign arm of the Ohio House Republican Caucus to Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), House Republicans again asked a Franklin County judge to issue an injunction taking control of the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) away from House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill). Plummer and Reps. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) and Ron Ferguson (R-Winterville) filed a lawsuit against Stephens and OHRA co-chair Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) last year, seeking an injunction to prevent Stephens from spending money out of the legislative campaign fund (LCF). Judge Mark Serrott denied the motion at the time, saying that freezing the funds would cause unjustifiable harm to third parties who were relying on the funds ahead of the March 19 primary.

House Democrats received two applications to fill Ohio House District 28. The seat was vacated by former Rep. Jessica Miranda (R-Cincinnati), who resigned to become the new Hamilton County auditor following the death of Brigid Kelly, who died after a two-year battle with cancer last month. Jodi Shapuras and Regina Collins have applied to fill the seat. Shapuras is an assistant professor and director of the Bachelor of Social Work Distance Learning Program for the University of Cincinnati School of Social Work while Collins is an attorney who studied law at the Ohio State University College of Law and earned a bachelor’s degree in English and sociology from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.

Rep. Munira Abdullahi (D-Columbus) released the following statement late Friday, April 26 concerning her attendance at Thursday night’s demonstration at Ohio State University (OSU) and the injuries she sustained: “As a concerned citizen, a proud Muslim-American and an elected state representative, I thought it was important to stand with those Thursday peacefully demonstrating on the Ohio State campus against the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. … What I witnessed and how myself and other demonstrators were treated was horrific and remains to be both physically and mentally painful. What was a calm and respectful protest was quickly escalated by police officers dressed in riot gear. They surrounded us at a moment when we were supporting students who were conducting prayer. I was grabbed by my headscarf. I was pushed toward the ground on to students. Ultimately, I sustained painful bruising around my ribs and midsection.”

With the support of AARP Ohio, Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) is proposing a new study committee to consider whether Ohio should join other states in setting up a public-private entity to facilitate retirement plans at small businesses. Introduced and referred to the House Pensions Committee in recent weeks, HB501 would create the Joint Legislative Study Committee on Small Business Retirement Options. It would study private sector retirement plans and state-facilitated retirement savings options as ways to address retirement security for Ohio’s aging population.

Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) Director Chris Albanese announced Thursday he has hired the agency’s first communications chief as well as a project manager, and unveiled CIIC’s new website. Communications and Policy Coordinator Matthew Eiting previously served as legislative aide to Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Chillicothe), a member of CIIC. Project Manager Hannah Kramer brings several years of administrative experience in corrections. She interned twice with CIIC as an Ohio State University student, learning to inspect Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) institutions and writing inspection reports, and she also served as an intake and release specialist for the Franklin County Juvenile Intervention Center.

In other legislative action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB466 (Schmidt-Brennan) which addresses brokers in real estate transactions, and HB403 (Cutrona) which addresses vehicle towing after an accident; and the House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB347 (Jones) which exempts farm equipment from the sales tax.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

Restrictions on gender transition services for minors and transgender women’s and girls’ participation in school sports will continue to be blocked through Monday, May 20. Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook on Tuesday extended his temporary restraining order (TRO), thus blocking enforcement of HB68 (Click). If not for the extension, the TRO would have expired on Tuesday, April 30.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Richard Cordray is stepping down as the chief operating officer (COO) of the U.S. Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) as the department deals with the botched rollout of a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio and first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, took over the office in 2021. Cordray’s contract was set to end in May, the Washington Post reported. While Cordray did not want to continue for another term, he agreed to stay through June at Cardona’s request, according to the paper.

Ohio State University (OSU) President Ted Carter Monday addressed the protests over the war in Gaza that took place Thursday, April 25 on the South Oval of the campus, saying “safety will not be compromised.” Over three dozen students and other protestors face misdemeanor criminal charges after arrests were made as the university sought to crack down on protests and encampments, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Rep. Munira Abdullahi (D-Columbus) reported attending the protests and sustaining injuries from interactions with police. Carter released a message defending Ohio State’s decision, saying, “What occurred on our campus on April 25 was not about limiting free speech. It was an intentional violation of university space rules that exist so that teaching, learning, research, service and patient care can occur on our campuses without interruption.”

The University of Toledo (UT) Board of Trustees Monday announced plans to appoint Matt Schroeder, executive vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer, to serve as interim president. The announcement comes after Gregory Postel accepted the position of senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC). Postel became UT’s 18th president in 2021, after serving as interim president since July 2020. While contract negotiations are ongoing, the intent is for Schroeder to begin serving as interim president on Monday, May 20, following Postel’s last official duty as president to preside over the final Spring 2024 commencement ceremony for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Ohio University (OU) has named Donald J. Leo as the university’s next executive vice president and provost effective, July 1, 2024. Leo, who most recently served as the first dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia (UGA), is a professor of mechanical engineering whose higher education career spans over 25 years. During his tenure as dean, engineering enrollment at UGA grew fourfold to over 2,700 students, research activity increased significantly, and the college developed numerous partnerships and outreach activities to enhance community engagement, according to OU.

Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Chancellor Mike Duffey Tuesday named the second group of Ohio higher education institutions to earn the Ohio Reach Postsecondary Designation, designed to recognize efforts to support foster care-connected students. Ohio Reach, which is administered through the Ohio Children’s Alliance, is a network of professionals, advocates and students who support former foster youth in their education. It provides resources to institutions of higher education, child welfare agencies, and foster care alumni enrolled in higher education to support their academic success. Campuses receiving the latest designation include Antioch College, Central Ohio Technical College, Lorain County Community College, Lourdes University, Maplewood Career Center, Malone University, Mt. Carmel College of Nursing, Owens Community College, Pickaway-Ross Career & Technology Center, Scioto County Career & Technical Center, University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash and University of Mount Union.

ODHE will receive a $3 million grant to fund a new four-year program designed to improve student performance in gateway science courses and promote degree advancement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization that invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete post-secondary degrees, certificates, and workforce training programs, awarded the grant for the Ohio Strong Start in Science (OhioSSS). The current participating schools are the following: Central Ohio Technical College, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Clark State College, Columbus State Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, Lakeland Community College, Lorain County Community College, Marion Technical College, Miami University, North Central State College, Rhodes State College, Shawnee State University, Sinclair Community College, Stark State College, University of Cincinnati, Wright State University and Zane State College.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Wednesday that 463 employers were approved for funding through the March round of TechCred, which will enable Ohioans to earn 5,723 tech-focused credentials. Some of the top industries awarded in the March round included manufacturing, construction and education services. This round also saw the highest number of credentials related to artificial intelligence (AI), Husted noted. The latest TechCred application round opened Wednesday, May 1 and will close at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 31.

The Ohio State University (OSU) Office of Government Affairs announced that Tom Walsh will join the office as associate vice president for state relations, effective June 1. Walsh currently serves as interim president and CEO of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC). Before joining OACC in 2015, Walsh spent five years at Ohio State in the Office of Government Affairs where he helped develop Ohio State’s public policy agenda.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The group collecting signatures on a proposed redistricting reform amendment that would create a citizen-led redistricting panel this week touted an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law that shows about 77 percent of Ohioans live in Ohio House districts that give one party a “severe advantage” in the 2024 election. The Brennan Center, which has endorsed the “Citizens Not Politicians” amendment, recently released the analysis, “Ohio’s Gerrymandered State House Districts Lack Electoral Competition,” which found that more than 9 million Ohioans, or about 77 percent of the state’s population, live in a state House district that is not in serious dispute in the fall because either the district is uncontested or one party has a disproportionate advantage, even if it is formally contested. Among the 99 districts on the ballot in the House in November, 14 are uncontested with only one major party candidate. Of those, 11 had uncontested primaries, while four were contested primaries. The analysis rates 62 of the races as “uncompetitive” in November, where the districts are formally contested, but victory is essentially out of reach for a given major party — distinguished by a partisan index of 55 percent or more for one party — regardless of circumstances. Those 62 races had 36 uncontested primaries for the favored party, and 26 had contested primaries for the favored party.

TAXATION

The House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday reported out HB344 (Mathews-Hall) on replacement property tax levy authority and property tax complaints over Democratic opposition. Discussion included what to do about the “LLC loophole,” as Democrats called it, with Republican members saying that issue should be addressed in a separate bill. In response to Ranking Member Dan Troy (D-Willowick), opponent witness Bethany Sanders, director of policy and strategic initiatives in the Franklin County Auditor’s office, described how the “loophole” is sale of an LLC which owns a property. That is not reported to the auditor in the way a property sale is and it is an “empty spot” in Ohio law, she added.

The passage rate for township levies has fallen during the last two election cycles as the General Assembly considers eliminating replacement property tax levies, Ohio Township Association (OTA) Executive Director Heidi Fought said Wednesday. “The reduction in levies’ passage rates alarms us. It is critical that townships have all three types of levies — renewal, replacement and additional — to provide residents with options that best suit the individual township. The OTA encourages the General Assembly to retain all three levy types for township usage,” Fought told the Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform. According to Fought’s testimony, renewal levies had a 96.6 percent passage rate in May 2023, a 97.9 percent passage rate in November 2023 and a 90.3 percent passage rate in March 2024. Replacement levies had a 92.8 percent passage rate in May 2023, an 89 percent passage rate in November 2023 and a 70 percent passage rate in March 2024. Additional levies had a 65.6 percent passage rate in May 2023, a 46 percent passage rate in November 2023 and a 40.9 percent passage rate in March 2024.

U.S. SEMIQUINCENTENNIAL/AMERICA 250-OHIO

Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine Wednesday helped kick off the “Ohio Goes to the Movies” event series, which is part of the state’s participation in the nation’s 250th, or semiquincentennial, anniversary on July 4, 2026. The Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial, also known as America 250-Ohio, was formed in 2022 after details on the commission were laid out in 134-HB110 (Oelslager). The commission is led by Co-Chairmen Doug Preisse and Michael B. Coleman, both appointed by DeWine. Todd Kleismit, the former director of community and government relations for the Ohio History Connection, serves as the executive director. In the lead up to America’s 250th birthday, the commission has been preparing programs and events around the state to commemorate the founding of the country and the “impact of Ohioans on the nation’s past, present, and future.” This movie series highlights films that were made in Ohio, feature Ohio-born actors, transpire in an Ohio city or town, or center on Ohioans. Films will be screened in all 88 counties in the lead up to July 4, 2026. More information about America 250-Ohio can be found at https://america250-ohio.org/.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO John Logue told board members Friday the BWC prescription benefit system managed by Change Healthcare has resumed full operations after a February cyberattack affecting pharmacies and consumers nationwide. The latter included the bureau’s 190,000 active claimants, who were forced to pay out of pocket or delay insurance reimbursement following the breach.

Posted by on May 08th, 2024

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