Week in Review > Week In Review 6-17-24

Posted by on June 17th, 2024

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Attorney General Dave Yost opened the application process Wednesday for the 2024-25 AG Teen Ambassador Board (TAB). TAB allows high school juniors and seniors from public school districts and brick-and-mortar charters, online charters and private schools, along with home-schooled students, to engage with state government officials and discuss issues affecting their lives. The application deadline is Sunday, Sept. 15. More information and application materials can be found at http://tinyurl.com/bdzu98b2.

Ohio joins 42 other states and the District of Columbia in a $700 million settlement with Johnson & Johnson over the safety concerns of its baby powder and other products containing talc. The states began investigating in 2019 whether Johnson & Johnson marketing misrepresented talc’s safety by failing to disclose the presence of asbestos in those products and the mineral’s link to cancer. The company subsequently ended the century-long sale of talc products in the U.S. and later halted global distribution. While Wednesday’s settlement focused on deceptive marketing, private lawsuits have claimed talc can cause mesothelioma, ovarian cancer and other serious health problems. Johnson & Johnson has agreed to permanently stop producing, marketing, promoting, selling or distributing all talc-based baby and body powders in the U.S., either directly or through any third party.

Attorney General Dave Yost says the state and its municipal subdivisions have the same or similar right to appeal court injunctions blocking enforcement of their laws, even if such a ruling “maintains the status quo” — the unresolved debate in the Ohio Supreme Court’s dismissal of Preterm-Cleveland v. Yost’s abortion ruling. He says an immediate right to appeal prevails whether the injunction is permanent or preliminary, and that any hold on legislative enactments robs citizens of democratically elected representation and prevents other branches of government from enforcing and adjudicating the law. Yost mounts these amicus arguments on behalf of the state capital in John Doe v. Columbus, in which the Delaware County of Common Pleas temporarily halted the city’s gun control laws and the 5th District rejected its appeal outright. The case is now before the Supreme Court.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday that Trevor Ross, 40, of Ottawa County has been indicted for allegedly embezzling $60,000 from Danbury Township Fire Fighters Association while serving as its treasurer. The Ottawa County Grand Jury charged Ross on Wednesday with three counts of grand theft, each a fourth-degree felony.

CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS

Months after the House adopted a project wish list for the one-time capital funding pool established in the biennial budget, the Senate introduced SB288 (Dolan) on Monday that includes a plan for all $700 million set aside in HB33 (Edwards). Lawmakers last year used the budget to create the $700 million One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF), a sort of mini-capital budget, but left the project particulars to further negotiations. In February, the House amended HB2 (Cutrona-Upchurch) to appropriate half the $700 million for its preferred projects as part of a broader $2 billion proposal, but the Senate balked at the time, saying it was not consulted on the spending package.

A House-passed capital spending measure from late winter appears likely to serve as the vehicle for both traditional capital appropriations and the one-time project funding pool lawmakers created in the operating budget, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and Senate Finance Chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said Tuesday. Dolan laid out the plan during the first hearing on his SB288, which includes $700 million worth of projects supported by the One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF) created in HB33 (Edwards). Dolan said SB288 incorporates the OTSCIF projects approved by the House in February as part of HB2. Of the 655 unique projects included in SB288, 90 overlap between the House and Senate project lists. The share of funding for those overlapping projects from the two chambers varies, with some an even split and some not. “[In the budget] we gave back through tax cuts. We’re now going to give back to community projects throughout the state that either improve economic opportunity and development or improve quality of life,” he said. Next week, both chambers are expected to introduce capital budget bills, and the following week those proposals and SB288 projects will be combined into HB2 and sent to the floor, he said.

The Senate Finance Committee moved a bit of money around Wednesday among projects to be funded by SB288 (Dolan), the current vehicle for deliberations on the One Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF) that lawmakers established in the FY24-25 operating budget. The committee adopted two amendments, one developed by the House, the other by the Senate. All the changes are revenue neutral, according to Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), the committee chair.

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

Ohio ranks near the middle of the pack for the wellbeing of children but regressed on measures of preschool attendance and reading and math proficiency in the latest KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The foundation’s 2024 edition of the data book looks at academic achievement measures and links to health, poverty and other indicators of wellbeing. Ohio’s overall ranking for child wellbeing in the report is 28, with sub-rankings of 24 for economic wellbeing, 18 for education, 29 for health and 33 for family and community. On overall rankings, Ohio leads neighbors Michigan (34), Kentucky (38) and West Virginia (44) but trails Pennsylvania (23) and Indiana (27).

EDUCATION

Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who serves as majority floor leader, and Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), chair of the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee, have proposed legislation that would add new reporting requirements for private schools with EdChoice students as well as create a state report card and require schools to follow the same graduation requirements as public schools, and more. HB407 (Manning-Seitz), the sponsors said, will allow families to more easily compare school options after lawmakers passed a universal school voucher plan in the latest state budget, HB33 (Edwards).

The House Higher Education Committee Tuesday continued its review of public universities’ implementation of new science of reading education standards, hearing from Wright State University and Cleveland State University (CSU). Both Jim Denniston, dean of the College of Health, Education, and Human Services at Wright State University, and Nigamanth Sridhar, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at CSU, said they’re confident they’ll be aligned to new state literacy policy ahead of the January 2025 deadline.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters Wednesday that a “couple of snafus” caused Ohio school districts to receive more money under the state school funding formula than was intended. Huffman estimated the overpayment to be as much as $30 million statewide, but he said he doesn’t expect lawmakers to try to claw that amount back. The maximum overpayment was more than $90,000 to Columbus City Schools, he said, adding that it is not much money comparatively to what districts received, even if it is a lot of money overall. He said he would like to address the overpayment in legislation since he said the foundation formula is based on former foundation formulas. “What we would simply do is say, starting with the next biennium, that the foundation formula is based on not what we paid, but [what] we intended to pay,” Huffman told reporters. “I’m not in favor of trying to go claw this money back and change the budget.” The Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) is seeking a technical fix from lawmakers to account for overpayments to schools as a result of data omissions. An amendment is needed to avert clawbacks of funding for FY24, which is about to end. The dollar figure involved is relatively small compared to the scope of state K-12 funding, but payment accuracy is important for future budgets. According to DEW, in the process of updating base-cost inputs from FY18 to FY22 figures, per HB33 (Edwards), some districts that did not report expenditures in particular categories were excluded from calculations. For example, 14 districts did not report spending on athletic co-curricular activities, so the roughly 11,000 students at those schools were excluded from calculation of the per-pupil amount. Including them would have reduced the per-student amount used in the calculation for that spending category by $1.40, from $192.21 to $190.81. A few per-student spending categories used in the formula suffered from this problem.

The Senate unanimously voted Wednesday to approve an Iowa career-technical education professional as the first deputy director over career-technical education at the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), a position established as part of the K-12 governance overhaul enacted in the biennial budget. In addition to moving much authority over K-12 policy implementation from the State Board of Education to the governor’s cabinet, HB33 (Edwards) created two Senate-confirmed deputy director positions over K-12 education and career-technical education. About a month ago, DEW Director Steve Dackin recommended the appointment of Jeremy Varner as the first deputy director for the DEW Division of Career-Technical Education and Workforce. Varner testified earlier Wednesday to the Senate Education Committee, which approved forwarding his nomination to the full body.

The House Higher Education Committee continued its review of science-of-reading implementation efforts by teacher preparation programs Wednesday while also hearing a proposal that would dig into what future teachers are being taught about student mental health and behavior. The committee took sponsor and proponent testimony on HB572, Rep. Andrea White’s (R-Kettering) proposal for a onetime audit by the Ohio Department of Higher Education of what educator preparation programs offer in terms of training to deal with mental health, behavior issues and classroom management. White said she’d heard repeatedly about the mental health and behavior challenges teachers are encountering in schools, which prompted her to want to learn more about how teachers are prepared to deal with those issues. With statistics on teacher burnout, teacher attrition and declining enrollment in teacher preparation programs, the issues need to be addressed quickly, she said.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) Monday heard testimony from three witnesses raising concerns about an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) rule package to establish stream mitigation regulations. Following their remarks, agency representatives said the item would be refiled. The package was in response to 134-HB175 (Hillyer).

House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus) are both happy to see HB7 (White-Humphrey) on Wednesday’s House floor calendar, the caucus leaders told reporters after the House Rules and Reference Committee meeting on Tuesday. “This is a bill that helps to take care of babies and mommas throughout Ohio, and we’re excited about having that bill on the floor tomorrow,” Stephens said.

The sponsors of the latest resolution that would put Ohio among the states calling for an Article V convention of states under the U.S. Constitution testified Tuesday on legislation they said would seek to alleviate concerns that such a convention would end up going beyond the stated purpose it was called for. Reps. Bernard Willis (R-Springfield) and Riordan McClain (R-Nevada) Tuesday gave sponsor testimony on HB608 (Willis-McClain) before the House Government Oversight Committee, which they said directly answers questions surrounding their HJR3 (Willis-McClain), which calls for the convention to address topics including a federal balanced budget, limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and instituting term limits on members of Congress.

The House Aviation and Aerospace Committee Tuesday heard a presentation on how drones are already being used in emergency services and ways that could expand in the future, including under a statewide pilot program. The presentation was given by CAL Analytics Managing Director Sean Calhoun and Hilliard Police Department Deputy Chief Ron Clark.

Wednesday’s House session included passage of HB178 (Brent-Callender), aka the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act, meant to prevent discrimination based on hairstyle; HB164 (Seitz-Jarrells), which would establish the Foster-to-College Scholarship Program; HB7 (White-Humphrey), a bill on maternal and infant health knowns as the Strong Foundations Act; HB503 (Jones-Peterson), which allows killing feral hogs without a license; HB380 (Hillyer-K. Miller), an omnibus road naming bill; SB40 (Roegner), to have Ohio join the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact; HB236 (Lear-M. Miller), regarding access to advocates for patients in congregate care; HB364 (Dobos-Klopfenstein), regarding seed sharing; HB403 (Cutrona), regarding towing; HB378 (Lorenz-Santucci), regarding a homestead exemption for surviving spouses of servicemembers killed in the line of duty; HB303 (Hall-Santucci), regarding EMS training; HB432 (Jones), regarding career-technical education; HB289 (Robb Blasdel-Swearingen), regarding sex offender residency requirements; HB331 (Mathews-Young), regarding village dissolution; HB327 (Wiggam-Swearingen), regarding E-Verify; and HCR11 (Klopfeinstein-King), to condemn the Chinese government for its role in the fentanyl trade; and concurrence with Senate amendments to HB158 (Roemer-M. Miller), regarding cosmetology and barbering.

Wednesday’s Senate session included passage of HB49 (Barhorst-Fergus), regarding hospital price transparency; SB237 (Gavarone-Manning), an anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) measure; SB112 (Rulli), regarding door safety standards for schools; SB176 (Sykes-Romanchuk), regarding child support orders for children over 18 with a disability; SB186 (Blessing-Ingram), regarding property taxes; and SB206 (Hackett), regarding derelict and abandoned aircraft.

Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) spoke to reporters following the Senate Rules and Reference Committee meeting Wednesday, offering her thoughts on projects in the capital budget and one-time funding bill, Pride Month and education issues such as vouchers and requiring public schools to allow students to attend religious classes during the school day.

Representatives from the health care distribution industry and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce were among the groups that provided opponent testimony to the House Public Health Policy Committee on Wednesday on a bill that would allow Ohioans to import prescription medication from Canada. Meredith Craig of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce said that the program modeled in HB92 (Young-Santucci) copies a similar program that has been launched in Florida. However, Craig said the Florida program is running into Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and issues of supply chain security that have stopped the importation of drugs from Canada to Florida from starting. Craig also said the bill could affect local pharmacies that could lose business to Canadian drug imports, and such a program could lead to the import of counterfeit drugs from Canada.

The state of Ohio should act soon to regulate carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, Rep. Monica Robb Blasdel (R-Columbiana) said Wednesday. “Make no mistake — carbon capture technology is coming. If Ohio takes the initiative to establish Class VI injection well primacy, we can communicate that Ohio is ready to compete with other states and that we are open for business. Because we have not acted, preferring to leave it to the Biden administration, we are losing investment,” Robb Blasdel told the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee during her sponsor testimony on HB358.

The Senate Government Oversight Committee Wednesday heard from a number of witnesses, fulfilling the requirement in the Ohio Revised Code to take public testimony on licensing practices of boards and commissions. Testimony covered topics including the grain trading tester certificate program; police training; auctioneers; and real estate licensure.

In other legislative action, House Aviation and Aerospace Committee reported out HB149 (Willis), regarding drone surveillance; House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out SB96 (Lang-Wilson), regarding posting of labor law notices; House Economic and Workforce Development Committee reported out HB349 (Barhorst-Jones), regarding natural gas pipelines; House Families and Aging Committee reported out HB512 (Pavliga), regarding emergency placement facilities for children; House Government Oversight reported out HB455 (Patton-Manning), to establish the Ohio Ireland Trade Commission; and HB367 (Mathews-Hillyer), regarding deepfakes; House Health Provider Services Committee reported out SB28 (Roegner), to have Ohio join the Physician Assistant Compact; House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB496 (Hoops), regarding property taxes and county auditors; and HB399 (Brown-Lampton), regarding income tax credits for organ donors; Senate Education Committee reported out SB112 (Rulli), regarding school building safety standards; House Homeland Security Committee reported out license plate bills HB223 (Thomas), HB248 (Demetriou-Manchester), HB287 (Baker) and HB302 (Rogers-Swearingen); House Insurance Committee reported out HB24 (White), regarding biomarker testing; Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee reported out HB49 (Ferguson-Barhorst), regarding hospital price transparency; and SB198 (Lang-Manning), regarding state ID cards for inmates upon release; Senate Transportation Committee reported out SB206 (Hackett), regarding abandoned and derelict aircraft; and SR155 (Gavarone), regarding consumer choice in the auto market; and Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee reported out SB226 (Johnson), regarding property protections.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Democrats objected Wednesday on the Senate confirmation vote of appointments for the Cleveland State University Center for Civics, Culture and Society Academic Council. Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said on the floor that one of the four had made inflammatory remarks against the LGBTQ community and written papers on race, and argued the three others do not live in Ohio. Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) said the appointments were referred to lawmakers by the university’s board of trustees and will be part of a special board created under biennial budget HB33 (Edwards), and will not be determining overall public policy.

PENSIONS

Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) Chair Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) on Thursday announced a new subcommittee to address the issues at the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) of Ohio. Members of the subcommittee will include Romanchuk, ORSC Vice Chair Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), Rep. Beryl Brown Piccolantonio (D-Gahanna) and Anthony Podojil, Romanchuk announced at the end of Thursday’s ORSC meeting. During the meeting, the council heard a presentation on pension board governance and fiduciary duties from Randall Miller of Funston Advisory Services and Tiffany Reeves of Faegre, Drinker, Biddle and Reath.

STUDIES/POLLS

A recent Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) report on child care argues that Ohio lawmakers have through “neglect, underfunding, and an insufficient response to the sector’s needs during the pandemic” created a child care landscape “that serves no one well.” The report, titled “Ohio’s Child Care Crisis,” said that inaction by the General Assembly has led to low wages, tiny margins, and high turnover common in the sector. Policy Matters said Ohio makes it more difficult than any other state for parents to qualify for Publicly Funded Child Care (PFCC), and reimburses providers “so poorly that the federal government has had to step in to demand policy changes. As a result, too few providers can afford to stay open, and too few families can access affordable child care.”

TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE

State lawmakers, university presidents and industry experts Tuesday gathered in the Atrium of the Statehouse for the first ever Artificial Intelligence (AI) Symposium hosted by the Inter-University Council of Ohio. Keynote speakers Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Greg Simpson, retired chief technology officer at GE and author of The Quantum Contingent, mostly highlighted the promise of AI and large language models. Husted described his first experience using ChatGPT shortly after it was released. “I remember thinking ‘this is going to change everything,’ and I know technology … you know a lot of people like to overhype it, but that’s not overhyping it in my mind,” Husted said. “It is going to change everything and it’s true.”

A recent study by the organization Child Trends offered recommendations for use of artificial intelligence (AI) in contexts involving children and families, saying “stronger guidance and regulations” are needed to ensure rigorous assessment of potential harm from AI systems. While federal and state officials have weighed the need for AI regulations, Child Trends said that is not taking into account use of AI by children and their families or caregivers. This is particularly an issue as students have increasingly used AI for homework assistance and interact with AI-generated content, while caregivers, including teachers, attempt to use AI to foster child engagement.

Posted by on June 17th, 2024

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