Week in Review > Week In Review 6-19-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on June 23rd, 2023
In response to the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision issued Monday, the Ohio Ballot Board voted 3-2 Tuesday to adopt a slightly adjusted ballot title and language for Issue 1 to reflect the Court’s wishes. The board accepted new language that made minor changes to the previous language. Specifically, the second point in the language now reads that the amendment would “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 electors of each county based on the total vote in the county for governor in the last preceding election.” LaRose also gave the issue the new title of “Elevating the standards to qualify for an initiated constitutional amendment and to pass a constitutional amendment.”
Ohioans won’t be “tricked into voting their rights away” this August, League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO) Executive Director Jen Miller said Friday. Miller said LWVO and other advocates are planning to execute a multifaceted campaign to ensure Ohioans are aware of what is at stake in August when they vote on Issue 1 which proposes to increase the passage threshold for future constitutional amendments to 60 percent.
With military and overseas voting set to begin next week for the Tuesday, Aug. 8 special election, both sides of the Issue 1 campaign continued to roll out endorsements for and against the proposed increase to the constitutional amendment passage threshold. Leadership Now Project, a business group, released an open letter signed by more than 25 Ohio business leaders opposing the passage of Issue 1. Among the signatories were John Pepper, former chairman and CEO, the Procter & Gamble Company and former non-executive chairman, the Walt Disney Company; Jeni Britton Bauer, founder and chief creative officer, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams; Charles (Chuck) Ratner, director, The Max Collaborative, former board chairman and CEO, Forest City Realty Trust, and CEO, Forest City Enterprises; former Rep. Charles (Rocky) Saxbe; former Rep. Mike Curtin; Sharen Davies, president and CEO of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation; and Ronald Richard, president and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation.
Meanwhile, proponents of Issue 1 continued to announce endorsements in favor, including the Ohio Pork Council and the Ohio Chapter of Republican National Lawyers Association.
The Senate passed its version of budget bill HB33 (Edwards) by a vote of 24-7 on Thursday, with Republicans touting the measure’s tax cuts and education policies and Democrats condemning the legislation as “out of touch” and harmful to Ohioans. The bill now heads to the House for a concurrence vote and will likely be sent to a conference committee. The Senate Finance Committee had made a final round of budget changes Wednesday in a 2,100-plus page omnibus amendment. The omnibus packaged dozens and dozens of individual amendments addressing everything from tax policy to preemption of local tobacco regulations to limiting how much time state employees can spend working from home.
Compared to the substitute bill version of HB33 unveiled the previous week, the version reported by committee Wednesday included about $58 million more in state-only General Revenue Fund (GRF) money for FY24 and about $43 million more for FY25. Funding totals remain below House-proposed levels by more than 2 percent in each fiscal year. Among major changes is the inclusion of SB83 (Cirino), a major rewrite of higher education laws sponsored by the finance committee vice chair, Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), as well as the inclusion of SB1 (Reineke) which removes most of the authority of the State Board of Education, giving it to a new state education department under the governor.
Human service groups who had earlier focused on issues ranging from children to housing said in a webinar Friday that the Senate’s proposed version of budget bill HB33 (Edwards) will not only roll back promising provisions of the executive and House-passed budgets, but make the situation related to many of these issues worse for the state. Advocates for Ohio’s Future Director Kelsey Bergfeld said during a webinar with stakeholders Friday that the proposed budget accepted by the Senate Finance Committee earlier in the week sees a lot of ground lost in investments across the human services sector. Still, she said it is not the end of the process, with a likely conference committee with the House.
HB68 (Click) which would prohibit gender transition services for children and ban transgender women and girls from playing women’s and girls’ school sports was reported out of the House Public Health Policy Committee on Wednesday. Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) joined all Democrats in voting against the legislation. White said she supports parts of the bill, but believed it needed more work before being reported out of committee. Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) said the bill “dehumanizes” transgender individuals and inappropriately puts the government in charge of medical decisions that are best made by families and their doctors. House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) told reporters after Wednesday’s floor session that HB68 will “probably” be on the House floor the week of June 19.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted reinforced parental consent to child social media access reinserted by the Senate in budget bill HB33 (Edwards), saying Monday that online peer pressure and bullying can lead not only to juvenile mental health problems but even death. Executive language restored by the upper chamber not only would allow parents and legal guardians to block youth from social media but also to censor or moderate content if they do allow kids access. DeWine and Husted joined Director Lori Criss of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and Executive Director Tony Coder of the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation (OSPF) at a Riffe Center press conference on the revived Social Media Parental Notification Act.
A recent study by personal finance site WalletHub ranked Ohio as having the 37th-best state economy, with subrankings of 30th in economic activity, 33rd in innovation potential and 46th in economic health. Overall, the Buckeye State trailed Michigan (20th), Indiana (27th) and Pennsylvania (28th), while leading Kentucky (45th) and West Virginia (51st, including the District of Columbia.) The report measured which “states are pulling the most weight even during this time of economic difficulty caused by inflation” and had 28 key indicators of economic performance and strength. The top five states were Washington, Utah, Massachusetts, Colorado and California.
The Senate version of the budget would allow private schools to continue withholding records from students who choose to transfer to public schools, State Board of Education (SBOE) member Teresa Fedor said Monday. The Senate should have retained the House provision in HB33 (Edwards) requiring schools to provide a transfer student’s school records to the new school within five days of the request, Fedor said following a budget presentation from Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Budget and School Funding Chief Aaron Rausch and ODE Policy and Legislative Affairs Director Jennie Stump at the State Board of Education meeting.
An attempt by State Board of Education member Meryl Johnson to have the board ask lawmakers to prioritize public education funding failed in a committee vote Monday. As the General Assembly deliberates various budget drafts that all would substantially expand EdChoice scholarships, Johnson asked the board’s Legislative and Budget Committee to take up her “Resolution in Support of Public Education as a Resource for Ohio.” The resolution invokes the constitutional basis of Ohio’s education system and states the board’s desire to “advance equal access to high quality public education” and the need to “protect public resources.” It goes on to ask “that the Ohio Legislature prioritize the success of Ohio’s system of public education, the education opportunity that is available to all, exists everywhere, unites communities in common purpose, and serves the common good, as it decides how to best allocate funds for educating Ohio’s youth.” The resolution failed with two votes in favor and four against. Board member Teresa Fedor, a former legislator and like Johnson a former teacher, joined Johnson in support, while members Walt Davis, Diana Fessler, John Hagan and Jim Mermis voted against it.
The General Assembly should pass legislation that would add information about a wide range of diverse communities to Ohio’s social studies model curriculum, supporters of HB171 (Lightbody) said during a Statehouse rally on Tuesday. The legislation, which has been referred to the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee, would require the State Board of Education to update the social studies model curriculum to include “appropriate instruction in the migration journeys, experiences and societal contributions of a range of communities in Ohio and the United States.” Communities included in the model curriculum would include the following:
– African American communities
– Asian American and Pacific Islander communities
– Arab, African and North African immigrant, refugee and asylee communities
– Appalachian communities
– Jewish communities
– Latin American communities
– Native American communities
The Ohio STEM Committee recently announced the approval of new or extended STEM designations for Ohio schools. Under state law, schools must have a partnership with public and private entities and offer a curriculum that meets specific criteria. Designate or redesignated schools include the following:
– Metro Early College High School received five additional years of STEM Designation starting in the 2022-2023 school year.
– Baldwin Road Junior High School received five additional years of STEM Designation starting in the 2022-2023 school year.
– The Dayton Regional STEM School received five additional years of STEM Designation starting in the 2022-2023 school year.
– Indian Hill Primary School received five years of STEM Designation starting in the 2023-2024 school year.
– Indian Hill Elementary School received five years of STEM Designation starting in the 2023-2024 school year.
– Hawkins STEMM Academy received five years of STEM Designation starting in the 2023-2024 school year.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is offering an estimated $400 million in competitive grant funding to replace older school buses with electric or low-emission models or install electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Applications will be taken through Tuesday, Aug. 22. USEPA is offering several webinars for those interested in more information throughout the summer. Registration information is at https://tinyurl.com/bdhhjz8v. More information about the funding is at https://tinyurl.com/483zrdub.
Investment expert and former county fiscal official Wade Steen has sued Gov. Mike DeWine and the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees, asking a Franklin County judge to restore his board position. Steen disputes DeWine’s assertion that he serves at the pleasure of the governor and can be replaced before his term ends. On the eve of election results for another board seat, DeWine announced he’d named investor G. Brent Bishop to Steen’s seat. His office said they’d pick this timing intentionally, announcing the move after all votes in the board election were cast but before the results were announced, to avoid the appearance of trying to sway the election. Challenger Pat Davidson ousted incumbent Arthur Lard in that election.
State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees members turned back an attempt Thursday to open their meeting with an executive session discussion on litigation against the system for the ouster of former trustee Wade Steen. The board did later convene for a very long closed-door session that included discussion of lawsuits.
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