Week in Review > Week In Review 5-8-23

Posted by on May 09th, 2023

FY24-25 BUDGET

With biennial budget HB33 (Edwards) passing the House and Senate hearings ongoing, Senate Democrats Monday held a press conference to highlight their priorities for the coming biennium, saying that while they like a number of provisions of both the governor’s proposed budget and the House version, they see room for improvement. Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said over the next couple of months, her caucus will address their priorities to ensure that the state budget will support fair tax policies that don’t benefit the wealthy and puts the burden on wealthy Ohioans. They also will push for fair school funding, transparency and accountability in education, strengthening the workforce, supporting business growth, providing resources for safety measures for communities while upholding local control, increasing safe and affordable housing, and protecting the environment.

The Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC) and other public media stations as well as higher education organizations asked the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee Tuesday to increase or restore funding from cuts in the House-passed version of the FY24-25 state budget, HB33 (Edwards). In addition to funding for its own operations, BEMC’s budget includes line items for Ohio Government Telecommunications (OGT) Services, otherwise known as the Ohio Channel, the Statehouse News Bureau, as well as Ohio Public Radio and TV stations, Radio Reading Services (RRS), and educational multi-media projects. The governor’s budget recommendation was already below BEMC’s request, but the House-passed budget made cuts for every line item except for the Ohio Channel, where lawmakers added funding.

Behavioral health providers asked the Senate Education Committee in budget testimony Tuesday to maintain student wellness funding and new mandates on how to spend it, while educational service centers asked to share in the same kind of increases given to school districts. Career-technical education representatives were also among witnesses at the hearing on HB33. Teresa Lampl, CEO of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health & Family Services Providers, said with recent increases in mental health demands and the general trend that lifetime mental illness often begins in adolescence, student wellness and success funding proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine and retained by the House is important for meeting students’ behavioral health needs. She also suggested that the Senate keep “or even strengthen” requirements for prioritizing spending on physical and behavioral health and for schools to partner with local providers.

Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director Lori Criss presented her agency’s budget proposal Tuesday to the Senate Health Committee. Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City), chair of the committee, asked Criss if she could delineate how much of the agency’s spending is going to school programs, noting there is also money for school mental health services via the Student Wellness and Success Fund, championed by Gov. Mike DeWine and now integrated into the new school funding formula.

School leaders told a Senate committee Wednesday they have an overall positive view of the literacy initiatives in the budget, specifically cheering the House’s decision to include a repeal of the retention mandate under Ohio’s reading guarantee law. Barbara Shaner, representing the Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators (OAESA) and flanked by the other major school management associations, told the Senate Education Committee the requirement in HB33 (Edwards) to use evidence-based methods aligned to the science of reading and the prohibition on “three-cueing” approaches enjoy general support among schools. However, the groups urged the committee to ensure schools “have the tools they need” to implement the changes — specifically mentioning the funding for teacher training, as an example.

The Senate Education Committee heard calls Thursday to go beyond voucher expansions supported by Gov. Mike DeWine and the House and include a backpack bill-style universal eligibility policy in the budget. School safety and security were the topics for testimony on HB33 (Edwards), and witnesses spoke on EdChoice, alignment of the Jon Peterson Scholarship and Autism Scholarship and charter school policies, among other subjects.

Workers who care for individuals with developmental disabilities (DD) should make at least $20 an hour on average, according to numerous witnesses who testified during the Senate Medicaid Committee’s hearing on HB33 (Edwards) on Thursday. DD advocates said they appreciated the House version’s direct care worker wage increase to $18 an hour by the end of the biennium but emphasized that a more significant pay hike is necessary immediately. Gary Tonks, president and CEO of the Arc of Ohio, said while it’s always been difficult to recruit and retain direct support staff, the current situation is a “crisis.”

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

Reps. Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) and Rachel Baker (D-Cincinnati) Thursday outlined upcoming changes to HB5, their “Adoption Modernization Act,” which was introduced in February as placeholder legislation and is a priority bill for Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill). The bill is currently in the House Families and Aging Committee and has not received a hearing. Ray told Hannah News the bill was introduced with placeholder language because the Ohio Association of Probate Judges’ (OAPJ) Modernization Committee had not finalized its recommendations at the time. She and Baker have an interested party meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 9 and want to hear about any additional suggestions, with a substitute bill potentially being offered in the next two to three weeks. Ray was adopted as a child, and Baker has adopted three children as well as serving as a court-appointed special advocate for cases involving youth.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

A recent panel at the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) explored the difficulty of getting more women into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and the pay gaps they face in the field once they graduate from college, seeing the situation as an economic development issue for the state of Ohio. According to panel moderator, Sheri Chaney Jones, founder and CEO of SureImpact and founder and president of Measurement Resources Company, women make up nearly half the workforce, but are unrepresented in key fields. In STEM careers, only 18 percent of leadership roles are held by women. She cited statistics that show 11 percent of construction jobs are held by women; 15 percent of engineers and architects; and 6 percent of welders. Forty-six percent of high school girls do not think they are smart enough for their dream jobs, and 70 percent of girls believe some jobs are better for men than women. One-third stay away from leadership because they don’t want men to think they are bossy, she said.

Google officials announced Wednesday they are adding two data centers on previously acquired land in Columbus and Lancaster, in addition to the current one in New Albany, which saw an expansion announced in 2021. Construction is already underway at both sites and the company’s total investment in Ohio will exceed $2 billion as a result. Gov. Mike DeWine took part in the press conference, saying the announcement reflects his effort to invest in people through the FY24-25 budget and “sends a signal … about where Ohio is going.”

EDUCATION

Interim Superintendent Stephanie Siddens recommended two senior Ohio Department of Education officials for consideration as her replacement by the State Board of Education. Siddens wrote a memo to the board recently to recommend Jessica Voltolini, ODE’s chief of staff, and Chris Woolard, chief program officer. The board is scheduled to consider the appointment of an interim superintendent at its May 8-9 meeting.

ELECTIONS 2023

Ohio voters in 67 counties cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary election; reports showed light turnout and few problems. The election was the first to require a photo identification as part of changes made in 134-HB458 (Hall). There were 420 local issues that were voted on, and some municipalities held primary elections for local offices.

A slight majority of school funding issues on the Tuesday primary election ballot failed to pass, according to a database of levy results maintained by the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA). Of the 75 school issues up for a vote, 36 passed, a rate of 48 percent. For comparison, voters approved 49 of 75 issues in the 2022 primary, a 65 percent passage rate. Renewal requests enjoyed broad support, with 72 percent passing, while two thirds of new funding requests were defeated. The passage rate for new funding requests was the lowest since 2007, according to OSBA.

Libraries, however, enjoyed their typically strong performance, with six of seven issues passing Tuesday, according to the Ohio Library Council (OLC). The only one to fail was in Henry County, where Napoleon Public Library’s request for an additional, continuing 0.5 mill levy got only 48 percent support.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Attorneys for Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) want the judge overseeing litigation on the constitutionality of EdChoice vouchers to quash plaintiffs’ subpoena seeking to depose him. His attorneys argue his testimony is not relevant or necessary to the case but also cannot be compelled because of Article II, Section 12 of the Ohio Constitution, which states, “Senators and representatives, during the session of the General Assembly, and in going to, and returning from the same, shall be privileged from arrest, in all cases, except treason, felony, or breach of the peace; and for any speech, or debate, in either house, they shall not be questioned elsewhere.”

Ian Dollenmayer will serve as the next executive director of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR), Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) announced Tuesday. Dollenmayer most recently served as the legislative liaison for the Ohio Department of Taxation for more than four years. Previously, he served as a legislative aide in the Senate for three years.

In other action, the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB76 (Hall-White) which addresses data storage by state agencies; the House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB116 (Peterson-Claggett) which deals with taxpayer deductions; and the House Higher Education Committee reported out HB27 (Mathews-J. Thomas) which requires higher ed institutions to provide financial cost and disclosure forms.

LIBRARIES

More than 300 public library directors, fiscal officers, trustees, and supporters gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to meet one-on-one with their members of the Ohio General Assembly during Ohio Library Day at the Statehouse. The top issue for the group, library funding in the biennial state budget, was discussed along with the innovative programs and services offered to Ohio’s 7.7 million cardholders.

Increased funding for mental health is critical for moral and economic reasons, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday during NAMI Ohio’s annual meeting at the Statehouse. “We’re creating jobs faster than we have people to fill them. Our biggest challenge is to make sure that we have people who can fill these jobs, so they can live up to their potential,” DeWine said. “When we help people with a mental health problem, mental illness, we’re helping them, their family, and we’re also frankly helping ourselves. We’re helping everybody in the state of Ohio.” DeWine said the executive budget proposal included provisions intended to provide more mental health funding to schools, incentivize more individuals to go into the mental health care workforce and increase resources to local communities.

The Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation (OSPF) recently announced a new mental health kit to help employers and management address when an employee is experiencing a mental health crisis in the workplace as well as policies and procedures to assist. The comprehensive guide was developed in partnership with OhioMHAS. The toolkit is being rolled out with key employers across the state with the help of Cardinal Health and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The “Mental Health in the Workplace Employer Resource Guide” provides helpful tips and talking points, statewide and federal resources, as well as strategies which can be used to address when a suicide occurs in the workplace. There are also marketing materials, including posters, rack cards, flyers, and more, provided with the toolkit to promote the use of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Posted by on May 09th, 2023

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