Week in Review > Week In Review 7-3-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on July 03rd, 2023
Gov. Mike DeWine Monday urged state lawmakers to “keep working” on the full biennial budget versus a continuing interim budget as the House Rules and Reference Committee approved a measure to extend funding for all FY23 line items by one week in case budget negotiations go beyond the Friday, June 30 deadline. The House Rules and Reference Committee Monday had accepted an amendment to SB43 (Brenner) — which deals with modifying the homestead exemption for the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran – to extends funding for all FY23 items from Saturday, July 1 through Friday, July 7. While set for a Tuesday vote, the bill was only informally passed.
However, as of late Thursday, there was still no conference committee report on HB33 (Edwards), the proposed FY24-25 budget, with the vote delayed until sometime Friday, June 30. House and Senate floor sessions were also set for Friday. In addition, Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) replaced Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) as a member of the conference committee.
In a report comparing school funding proposals among the executive, House and Senate versions of the pending biennial budget bill, HB33 (Edwards), school funding expert and economist Howard Fleeter said Senate changes to local funding capacity calculation “should be considered to be a step backwards in the construction of an equitable, adequate and reliable school funding formula.” The report, written for the Ohio Education Policy Institute, which is supported by major education organizations in the state, notes that the Senate version does offer increased funding even beyond the higher levels proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine, including retention of the House’s move to update salary data inputs to FY22.
Federal regulators who work with Ohio’s designated advocate for people with disabilities have expressed concern about the recommendations in a state oversight report, some of which ended up as Senate budget amendments recently. But a key lawmaker behind the oversight report said testimony in an oversight hearing made clear Disability Rights Ohio is ignoring part of the population for whom it is supposed to advocate. In an interview with Hannah News, Kerstin Sjoberg, executive director of DRO, said the organization’s advocacy for home- and community-based services is driven by what it hears from its clients and its board, most of whose members are people with disabilities, as well as the direction set out in federal law. Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario), who advocated for creation of the state oversight committee and for these most recent amendments, said the report of that committee clearly demonstrates the problems with DRO. He also said the Senate does not believe its amendments put federal funding at risk, saying DRO raised that concern in the prior budget cycle with creation of the oversight committee.
Recently released U.S. Census Bureau data measured Americans who moved across state lines in 2021, estimating 184,477 people moved to Ohio from other states and 189,534 moved out. The margin of error for this data was significant, at +/- 11,210 people who moved to Ohio and +/-10,924 people who left. The report also found 1.23 million Ohioans moved within the state in 2021, at a +/-27,914 margin. Ohio ranked 16th for people moving in, with the top five states being Florida, 674,740; Texas, 591,395; California, 433,402; North Carolina, 336,681; and Georgia, 302,512. Among neighboring states, Pennsylvania led at 261,831, followed by Indiana, 156,417; Michigan, 143,042; Kentucky, 107,693; and West Virginia, 43,801.
The Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus got an overview Monday of Ohio’s standing in the latest KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, while also hearing advocates’ hopes for improvements in anti-hunger efforts and child lead poisoning prevention programs in final budget negotiations. Kim Eckhart of the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio said the arrival of the 2023 KIDS COUNT report in mid-June was well-timed to highlight the choices before legislators on policies that could benefit Ohio children. Ohio’s data profile on child wellbeing has the state ranked 29th overall, with sub-rankings of 26th in economic wellbeing; 20th in education; 28th in health; and 33rd in family and community.
The Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) said Friday that the $600 million onshoring grant agreement with Intel Corporation has been finalized. ODOD said the funds will help offset costs associated with the construction of the semiconductor manufacturing campus in Licking County. As part of the grant agreement, $300 million is available for the construction of each of the two chip factories set to be completed as part of the initial phase of Intel’s $20 billion investment in Ohio. Funds will be available for two years after construction begins on each facility, which must be completed by Dec. 31, 2028.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday that Amazon Web Services (AWS) plans to invest an estimated $7.8 billion by the end of 2029 as part of expanded data center operations in Central Ohio, creating hundreds of new jobs. Final selections for the new data center campuses will be made at a later date, but “numerous” locations are under consideration. The project is the second-largest single private sector company investment in Ohio’s history. The centers will have computer servers, data storage drives, networking equipment, and other forms of technology infrastructure used to power cloud computing.
Separate from the Amazon announcement, Gov. DeWine’s administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for nine projects expected to create 534 new jobs and retain 1,007 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $40 million in new payroll and spur more than $76.6 million in investments across Ohio.
The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Tuesday the Minority Development Financing Advisory Board (MDFAB) had approved financial support for three businesses, helping minority- and women-owned businesses sustain and expand their operations. They include BBCO Design LLC (Fairfield County), Inspiring Hope Counseling LLC (Williams County) and Designs by Marie (Ottawa County).
School districts should have more flexibility in determining whether a student is ready to safely return to the classroom following an expulsion for a dangerous act, Reps. Gary Click (R-Vickery) and Monica Blasdel (R-Columbiana) told the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee during sponsor testimony on HB206 on Tuesday. “I want you to imagine the fear and sudden anxiety that overwhelmed young teenage girls and boys in my district on Dec. 6, 2022, when a 14-year-old young man pulled a gun out of his backpack. The teachers in that school don’t have to imagine it, they witnessed it,” Click said.
The Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) announced the selection of 16 high school students Tuesday for the 2023-2024 Ohio Student Safety Advisory Council. They will be invited to the in-person Ohio School Safety Summit on Tuesday-Wednesday, July 25-26 at the Columbus Convention Center to network with peers and attend sessions on violence prevention. During the year, council members will advocate for students’ overall well-being and will develop strategies to encourage peers to actively engage in maintaining a safe school environment.
For the upcoming school year, Ohio educators can access “Learning Blade,” an online STEM and computer science career platform, to inspire students to pursue high-demand careers. Free access to the platform is provided through the Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN), which is managed by Battelle. This public-private partnership with the state of Ohio is part of the company’s commitment to preparing the next generation of innovators. Learning Blade is accessible to all Ohio educators at no cost and will remain available throughout the 2023-2024 school year. The platform offers lessons and teacher guides aligned with Ohio’s academic standards, designed for students in grades 5-9. Using real-life situations and missions, Learning Blade introduces students to a wide range of STEM and computer science careers. Ohio educators can access Learning Blade by visiting https://osln.org/learning-blade.
At Tuesday’s House session, members passed HB5 (Ray-Baker), to modernize adoption laws; HB49 (Barhorst-Ferguson), regarding hospital price transparency; HB158 (Roemer-M. Miller), regarding cosmetology and barber laws; HCR8 (Patton-Lampton), urging the federal government to pick Ohio for the U.S. Space Command headquarters; HB34 (Klopfenstein-King), allowing breastfeeding mothers to be excused from jury service; and HB167 (Miranda-Abrams), regarding police training.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed SB16 (Wilson), with the Senate supporting the House’s amendments and the addition of an emergency clause to put the legislation into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature. While originally dealing with waivers of liability for donated food, the bill in the House picked up amendments to 134-HB343 (White), the implementing statute for the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment on victims’ rights. Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said among the changes to HB343 included in SB16 was language addressing when and how law enforcement provides information on victims’ rights to victims. Under current law, officers are having to present victims with a very long form at the crime scene.
The Senate also passed another licensure compact bill, SB90 (Roegner), this one dealing with social workers. Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), who has championed a slew of licensure compact measures in the past few years, said the National Association of Social Workers, its Ohio affiliate and the relevant licensing board in Ohio are all on board.
Also passing was SB91 (Schaffer), which will establish training requirements for public employees and officials on spotting and reporting fraud, as well as mandatory reporting requirements for certain public employees and officials who witness or suspect fraud. Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) said he developed the bill in cooperation with Auditor Keith Faber’s office.
A rendering of the “Ohioans in Space” painting was unveiled at the Statehouse Wednesday, with plans for the final version to be unveiled on Jan. 24, 2024 and installed days afterward. It shows four astronauts — John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Judith Resnik — as well as Gene Kranz, who worked in flight control during Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The names of other Ohio astronauts will be included, likely through engraving on the frame, and the final work will be a nine-foot by 12-foot oil painting. Capitol Square Foundation (CSF) Chair Charles Moses noted it has been 66 years since the commissioning of the last major painting for the Statehouse, the same time period between the Wright Brothers’ first flight and the Moon landing. He said this painting honors “Ohio’s profound impact on space travel” and will be perfectly placed across from the Wright Brothers painting in the Rotunda’s East Stairway.
In other legislative action, House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB71 (Santucci), to establish the Community Connectors Workforce Program; and HB137 (Mathews-Plummer), to study bringing a program like the Kentucky Bluegrass Challenge Academy to Ohio; and the House State and Local Government reported out HB93 (Johnson-McClain), regarding liens for unpaid water and sewer charges; HB74 (Hall-Lightbody), regarding state IT systems; and SB42 (Johnson-S. Huffman), to adopt the 1905 Wright Flyer II as the state airplane.
Ohio State University (OSU) will face more than 100 former students and non-students’ damage claims that it harbored the late OSU sports physician and sexual predator Dr. Richard Strauss after the U.S. Supreme Court Monday denied the university’s appeal. The high court does not comment when it declines a case, leaving in place last year’s original U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals decision against Ohio State and subsequent order denying en banc review by the entire appeals court. In both findings, Judges Karen Moore and Eric Clay outvoted Senior Judge Ralph Guy 2-1.
The Senate passed another of its higher education proposals Wednesday along party lines after expanding the measure to establish and fund new academic centers by including more universities. Under SB117 (Cirino-McColley), lawmakers would establish the Salmon P. Chase Center for Civics, Culture and Society at Ohio State University and the Institute of American Constitutional Thought and Leadership at the University of Toledo. A floor amendment would create similar centers at Cleveland State University, Miami University and the University of Cincinnati. Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) said the bill is meant to promote “an ethic of civil and free inquiry” at institutions of higher education. The amendment was adopted 25-7 and the bill passed 25-6.
The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday struck down admissions programs that relied in part on race at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina (UNC) on the grounds that they violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Both cases (Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina) were brought by the group Students for Fair Admissions. In the UNC case, the plaintiffs alleged university policies discriminated against White and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic and Native American ones. The case against Harvard accused the university of discriminating against Asian American students by employing subjective standards to limit the number of those students accepted. The vote was 6-3 in the North Carolina case and 6-2 in the Harvard case. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sat out the Harvard case reportedly because she had been a member of an advisory governing board. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion joined by the Court’s conservative members and liberal members dissented.
In a case that could have implications for an appeal of Ohio’s congressional redistricting efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that state courts can play a role in reviewing decisions made by state legislatures regarding federal elections. The Court ruled 6-3 in Moore v. Harper, a case involving the way North Carolina drew its congressional lines after the census in 2020. Groups and Democratic voters challenged the map in the North Carolina Supreme Court, which ruled that the map was an impermissible gerrymander. The North Carolina State Legislature ultimately appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, presenting the argument that the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires “the Legislature” of each state to prescribe the rules governing federal elections, vests state legislatures with authority to set rules governing federal elections free from restrictions imposed under state law. The argument has been known as the “independent state legislature theory.” In a national press call analyzing the decision organized by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, Vikram Amar, the dean of the University of Illinois College of Law, said he did not think Ohio’s appeal would resurrect any independent state legislature theory arguments that weren’t addressed by the Court in the Moore ruling. He said he expects the Court next week to either refuse to take up the appeal or send it back to the Ohio Supreme Court for further review in light of the Moore ruling.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said Wednesday he is expecting the U.S. Supreme Court to deny Ohio’s federal court challenge to the Ohio Supreme Court’s congressional redistricting rulings, following this week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Moore v. Harper. “What happens with the Ohio case? I think probably the smart money is the Supreme Court will not accept that certiorari petition — in other words, won’t accept that case,” he said.
In a short meeting Monday, all of the rules before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) cleared the committee without any comment or testimony. Rules included requirements to obtain a licensure validation to teach financial literacy through the Ohio Department of Education and amendments to home- and community-based services dealing with non-medical transportation from the Ohio Department of Disabilities (ODOD).
Representatives of the County Auditors Association of Ohio (CAAO) including former Rep. Michael Stinziano told House members the property tax amendment inserted in the Senate’s budget and echoed in HB187 (Hall-Bird) relies on a misperception of property valuations and could increase actual taxes most on Ohioans who can least afford them. The House Ways and Means Committee heard opposition testimony on HB187 from Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan, Ottawa County Auditor Jennifer Widmer, and Stinziano, now Franklin County auditor. They said the standalone bill and Senate version of HB33’s attempt to average three years of sales data for the current triennial review of property valuations, rather than weighting the current year, misconstrues the relationship between property values and actual taxes and does nothing to correct property taxation policies adopted by the Legislature with unintended consequences in the years since efforts to control rising valuations nearly five decades ago.
Ohio will receive $793.7 million in federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funds, according to a Biden administration announcement Monday that was touted by Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Development (DOD) Director Lydia Mihalik as well. President Joe Biden said he wants to connect “everyone in America” to high-speed, affordable Internet by 2030, saying 24 million people currently do not have access and millions more have limited or unreliable service. High-speed Internet “isn’t a luxury anymore, it’s become an absolute necessity,” he continued.
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