Statehouse News - Week in Review 


Week in Review

Friday, Dec. 1, 2017




While Ohio struggles each day with an ongoing addiction epidemic, the crisis could worsen over the next decade, according to a new report from the Trust for America's Health and Well Being Trust. The report, "Pain in the Nation: The Drug, Alcohol and Suicide Epidemics and the Need for a National Resilience Strategy," estimates that Ohio could see a 47 percent increase in drug, alcohol and suicide death rates in the next 10 years. It calls for a "National Resilience Strategy."


Months after it released a broad set of recommendations, the Joint Study Committee on Drug Use Prevention Education met Thursday to solicit members' ideas of how to advance or expand upon the suggested policies in its February report. Alisha Nelson, a member of the heroin unit in Attorney General Mike DeWine's office, said the attorney general's office is looking for ideas on how best to use the current administration's remaining 13 months to advance the cause of prevention. DeWine will be term-limited at the end of next year, though he is running for governor.




Eight land trusts, four counties, one township and 10 soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) will receive funding to help preserve farmland across the state, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced.


Several changes to the state's livestock care standards will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg). Starting on that date, veal calves must be housed in group pens by 10 weeks of age. Additionally, whether housed in individual stalls or group pens, the calves must be allowed to turn around and cannot be tethered.




Attorney General Mike DeWine on Monday certified two proposed constitutional amendments addressing local community rights that were brought in response to fracking operations around the state. He said the summaries of the amendments were fair and truthful and that the proposals had the necessary 1,000 signatures to move forward. The two amendments, titled the "Initiative and Referendum Amendment for Counties and Townships" and the "Ohio Community Rights Amendment," were brought by the Ohio Community Rights Network.




Ohio State University announced it is joining Ohio Business Competes, described as a nonpartisan coalition committed to enactment of nondiscrimination policies at the state level. The coalition is concerned about the fact Ohio law does not protect people from being denied employment, housing or services based on sexual orientation or gender identity.




While identity theft and fraud are a growing national issue, Ohio is the ninth least vulnerable state, according to a report by personal finance site WalletHub.




Several recent changes to state rules will give more flexibility to teachers seeking certain licenses, said the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Among the changes are the removal of a supplemental license course requirement and an expansion of the definition of "short-term" as it relates to substitute licenses.


Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) announced her introduction of HB418, which seeks to require K-12 schools in Ohio to transfer educational records to another school within five days upon request.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced the application window for schools seeking recognition from the U.S. Department of Education's (USDOE) Green Ribbon Schools program has been extended until Friday, Jan. 26, 2018.


The House Education Committee trimmed the upper ranges of the income eligibility scale and dropped plans to let families save unused school voucher funding for future education expenses in revisions to the Opportunity Scholarship proposal in HB200 Tuesday.


School districts and county officials urged House members Tuesday to reject or substantially change legislation that would affect the way they intercede in property tax disputes and would delay valuation increases for housing developments. The House Ways and Means Committee heard from a mix of supporters, interested parties and opponents on the two proposals from Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), HB343 and HB371. The former requires local governments to authorize via resolution each individual property tax valuation complaint with a county board of revision. The latter prevents increases in tax valuation for land subdivided for housing until either construction commences or the land is sold.


The Columbus Board of Education recently appointed John Stanford as the interim superintendent/CEO of Columbus City Schools following the retirement of Dan Good at the end of December. Stanford's appointment is effective Jan. 1, 2018.


State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria gave his second presentation of the week Wednesday on proposed changes in state learning standards, fulfilling the statutory requirement that the House and Senate education committees review such changes before final adoption by the State Board of Education.




The ACLU of Ohio announced that the U.S. Supreme Court arguments in the Ohio voting purge case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, have been rescheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018. Paul M. Smith, vice president of litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center, will argue the case on behalf of the plaintiffs.




Secretary of State Jon Husted ended his bid for governor on Thursday and joined Attorney General Mike DeWine's campaign as his running mate, saying it is about service and doing what's right for the state. Both men also said they had heard from Republicans all across the state to end intraparty fighting and work together. Opponents quickly began attacking the pairing. U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) posted a video to Twitter saying that "two career politicians have joined forces."� Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor called a press conference to reaffirm her candidacy, saying, "I think many thought that this was going to chase some out of this race, or chase me out, but voters have a choice because I'm in this race."


Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of the gubernatorial race, TV host and former Cincinnati Mayor Jerry Springer said he would not enter the race, citing personal concerns and a reluctance to create a "circus" atmosphere.




Legislation rolling back renewable energy and energy efficiency standards could pass before the end of the year, Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) told reporters.




A study of a Lake Erie wetland suggests that scientists have vastly underestimated the number of places methane-producing microbes can survive -- and, as a result, current global climate models may be misjudging the amount of methane being released into the atmosphere. In the journal Nature Communications, researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) and their colleagues describe the discovery of the first known methane-producing microbe that is active in an oxygen-rich environment. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and both contribute to climate change.


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has cited Rover Pipeline LLC for spilling contaminants into the Black Fork of the Mohican River in Ashland County. The violation is Rover's fifth since the company received permission from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in September to resume drilling construction at certain locations in Ohio, according to the Ohio EPA.




Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray officially left his office as the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) on Friday, naming a successor and setting up a battle with the White House over who is in charge until the Senate confirms a permanent director. Cordray, the first director of the agency created under the Dodd-Frank Act, announced earlier in the month that he was leaving. Speculation has been that he is running for governor in Ohio, but he has not announced his next move.


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) continued his push for tax reform in a call with reporters Tuesday, and also weighed in on continued tensions with North Korea, protection of the Great Lakes and the issue of sexual harassment in politics.




John Barron will take over as chief of staff for the Senate GOP Caucus effective Monday, Dec. 18, Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced. Barron currently serves as the deputy executive director and general counsel for the Ohio Casino Control Commission. Barron replaces Jason Mauk, who stepped down after six years as chief of staff effective Dec. 1 to lead the Republican Senate Campaign Committee.


Former Senate President Bill Harris, a Republican from Ashland, died Monday at age 83. Harris served 15 years in the General Assembly, joining the House after his election in 1994 and moving to the Senate in 2000 when former Sen. Richard Schafrath resigned his seat for a position. Harris became Senate president in 2005 and served three terms in the office. His funeral will be held Saturday, Dec. 2 at 11 a.m. at Grace Brethren Church of Ashland, 1144 W. Main St., Ashland OH 44805.


Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced late Tuesday the recommendation of Rep. Robert McColley (R-Napoleon) to fill the vacancy in Ohio's 1st State Senate District seat, which includes all of Defiance, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Paulding, Putnam, Van Wert and Williams counties and portions of Auglaize, Fulton and Logan counties. A seven-member screening committee of senators met with six applicants for the vacancy and recommended McColley. The selection will go to the full caucus in the near future, with McColley expected to be seated in early December. The Senate vacancy was the result of the resignation of former Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) in mid-October when a Legislative Service Commission staffer reported he had repeatedly asked her for sex and made other unwanted advances -- allegations Hite confirmed.


As data breaches at companies and government agencies continue to escalate, Reps. Michael Henne (R-Clayton) and Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) want to make it easier for Ohioans to freeze their credit. In sponsor testimony to the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee (FIHUD) on Tuesday, the lawmakers said HB386 would eliminate the $5 fee credit agencies charge to freeze and unfreeze credit.


Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) released the schedule for January through June, 2018. The first House session for the new year is set for Wednesday, Jan. 17; the last is set for Wednesday, May 23. Sessions after May 23 through June are all "if needed." Earlier, the House clerk's office announced the chamber will meet only twice more for the year on Tuesday, Dec. 5 and Wednesday, Dec. 13, cancelling other "if-needed" sessions set in December.


The House returned from Thanksgiving break Wednesday to approve a conference report on SB8 (Gardner-Terhar) which had originally established a program assisting school districts in purchasing technology and making physical alterations to improve technology infrastructure and school safety and security, but became the vehicle for a number of budget correction items after the two legislative chambers sent it to a conference committee.


Also passing the House were HB98 (Duffey-Boggs), which is aimed at getting more information about career technical jobs into the hands of Ohio students; HB 230 (Gonzales) which deals with the display of the "Blue Line" flag; HB286 (LaTourette) which addresses palliative care programs; and SB33 (Eklund) which allows disclosure of information from the law enforcement data system (LEADS) to a defendant in a traffic or criminal case. The House also sent HB199 (Blessing), the Ohio Residential Mortgage Lending Act, to the governor after approving Senate amendments to the bill 80-8.


Legislation regulating fantasy sports games that require an entry fee was approved by the Senate 25-4 on Wednesday. Under HB132 (Dever-McColley), the Ohio Casino Control Commission would be granted the authority to investigate, license, penalize and regulate anyone conducting or participating in a "fantasy contest" in Ohio.


In other action, the Senate passed highway naming bills SB132 (Gardner), SB173 (Hottinger) and SB185 (Terhar); and adopted SCR14 (Hoagland), which urges the federal government to take action to counter

oil market manipulation by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and SCR15 (O'Brien-Wilson), which designates 2018 as "Ohio's Year of the Trails."


HB123 (Koehler-Ashford), which would close a loophole in the Short-Term Loan Act and offer consumer protections for Ohioans taking out payday loans, received its first hearing in the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee on Wednesday.


House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) Thursday announced that screening panels will be organized in the coming weeks to begin the process of filling the vacancies in the 81st and 87th House districts. The 87th House District is vacant after ex-Rep. Wesley Goodman (R-Cardington) resigned amid scandal, and the 81st House District will become vacant after the Tuesday, Dec. 5 appointment of Rep. Rob McColley's (R-Napoleon) to the Ohio Senate. Residents of the 81st and 87th House districts who wish to be considered for the appointments should provide a letter of interest, along with a resume, to Rosenberger at 77 S. High St., 14th Floor, Columbus, OH 43215 by 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 15, 2017.


House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) announced this week that he has appointed Rep. Sarah LaTourette (R-Chesterland) vice chair of the House Community and Family Advancement Committee. She replaces former Rep. Margy Conditt (R-Hamilton), who resigned from the House in September.


In other action, the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB283 (Rezabek) which addresses adoption procedures for abused, neglected or dependent children; and HB354 (Reineke) which deals with the Tiffin-Fostoria Addiction Program; the House Education and Career Readiness Committee reported out HB21 (Hambley) regarding verification of community school enrollments; the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee reported out HB329 (Pelanda) which deals with pyramid promotional schemes; the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out SB125 (Beagle) which changes Ohio's child support laws; and HB223 (Dever) which deals with settlement payment rights transfer; House Health reported out HB332 (Antani) dealing with organ transplants for disabled persons; House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee reported out HB66 (Young) which deals with tenured staff at higher education institutions; House Insurance reported out HB336 (Barnes-Greenspan) which deals with driver's license reinstatement fees; and SB169 (Wilson-Eklund) which addresses the sale of travel insurance; House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB291 (Wiggam) which authorizes local governments to purchase employee dishonesty insurance; HB300 (Barnes) which makes permanent state IDs issued to a permanently disabled Ohioan; and SB71 (Manning) dealing with ADAMH board contracts; the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out naming/license plate bills HB294 (Boccieri), HB316 (Arndt-Stein), HB328 (Ingram-Kelly) and HB344 (Hambley-Kick).




Appointments made during the week include the following:


- Lucas J. Hanks of Orient (Franklin County), Charles A. Penzone of Delaware (Delaware County), and Tasha L. Sheipline of Wapakoneta (Auglaize County) reappointed to the State Board of Cosmetology for terms beginning Nov. 21, 2017, and ending Oct. 31, 2022.

- Robert J. Doersam of Pickerington (Fairfield County) to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council for a term beginning Nov. 21, 2017, and ending Oct. 26, 2020.

- John H. Seguin of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Maternity and Newborn Advisory Council for a term beginning Nov. 21, 2017, and ending Oct. 31, 2022.

- Kent J. Appelhans of Pemberville (Wood County), Karen Beavers of Sidney (Shelby County), James E. Davis of Westerville (Delaware County), Julie A. Rose of Ashtabula (Ashtabula County), and Hamilton P. Schwartz of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) reappointed to the State Board of Emergency Medical, Fire and Transportation Services for terms beginning Nov. 21, 2017, and ending Nov. 12, 2020.

- Patrick G. Foltyn of Columbus (Franklin County) to the State Fire Council for a term beginning Nov. 30, 2017, and ending Nov. 1, 2022.




Attorney General Mike DeWine is reviewing whether a person barred by federal law from owning or possessing a firearm may legally obtain a concealed carry license in Ohio. While Ohio Revised Code 2923.125(D)(5) requires county sheriffs to ignore minor misdemeanor convictions when issuing a concealed handgun license, the Gun Control Act of 1968, Title 18 United States Code Section 922(g)(3) and (9), bars anyone "who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance" or who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence from possessing a firearm, among other prohibitions.




Former Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee will serve as Cleveland State University's 2017 fall commencement speaker, the university announced.


Bowling Green State University (BGSU) and the University of Toledo (UT) recently announced a course exchange agreement for foreign languages, which the institutions say will expand courses available for students while reducing duplicative programs in the region.


According to a settlement agreement filed in the Ohio Court of Claims, Ohio State University will pay $450,000 to the parents of Austin Lee Singletary, who died in November 2015 after his dive into the shallow water of Mirror Lake during a student-led event.


Kent State University at Ashtabula is partnering with Laurello Vineyards to expand the educational opportunities for students in its wine degree programs, allowing students to participate in all aspects of grape growing and winemaking. This culminates in the production of a new "Kent State Ashtabula" labeled wine. The first two wines, a Riesling and a Cabernet blend, will be released in December 2017.


A study by researchers in Ohio State's College of Social Work found that participants in the university's Program 60, which allows Ohioans over 60 to take tuition-free classes, received a variety of benefits. The researchers surveyed 107 Program 60 students, whose age ranged up 89-years-old. Participants in the study reported that, along with enjoying taking classes with younger students, the classes also helped increase their emotional satisfaction.




The Development Services Agency (DSA) awarded $24 million to 30 communities to rehabilitate, repair and construct affordable housing for low-income Ohioans as well as provide homeownership and rental assistance. The Community Housing Impact and Preservation Program grants are funded by the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs.


Housing authorities and organizations advocating for the poor, homeless and mentally ill on Tuesday criticized HB282 (Hambley) that would prohibit metropolitan housing authorities from renting or providing housing assistance to people recently convicted of criminal mischief relating to residential property damage.


Providers of services and emergency housing for youth said Wednesday at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum early intervention and a blurring of the sometimes hard boundary between childhood and adulthood will be necessary to prevent homelessness among teenagers and young adults.




A recent Progressive Insurance study shows about one-third of drivers feel confident in their own ability to text and drive, yet the majority believe distracted driving is the biggest cause of auto accidents and more than 90 percent say it should be illegal. The starkest difference in attitudes is between younger and older drivers. More than 60 percent of 18-34 year olds are confident in their ability to safely text while driving compared to less than 6 percent of individuals 55 and older.




Because many local governments are at risk of theft and other misuse of government credit and debit cards, Auditor of State Dave Yost has released a "Best Practices" newsletter on minimizing the risk of credit card abuse.




The Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) on Thursday announced the 12 winners of level one medical marijuana cultivator licenses.




The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has dozens of events planned through December and into early January for the holiday season.


The federal plan to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes should be completed by January 2019, Senate Great Lakes Task Force members including U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said Monday. It is "imperative" that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) meet that original timeline to finish the Brandon Road Study, the senators said in a letter to Ryan Fisher, acting assistant secretary of the Army (Civil Works).


Hunters checked 22,366 white-tailed deer on Monday, Nov. 27, the opening day of Ohio's deer-gun hunting season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).




The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) responded to the recent media focus on cancer risks and other on-the-job dangers faced by firefighters by partnering with the State Fire Marshal's office to educate Ohio firefighters about safety resources available through their agencies.


Provisional statistics released Monday show more motorists were killed on Ohio's roadways this Thanksgiving holiday than in recent years. During the five-day reporting period, from Wednesday, Nov. 22, at 12 a.m. until Sunday, Nov. 30, at 11:59 p.m., 16 people were killed in 11 fatal crashes. In 2016, nine people were killed in nine fatal crashes. Of the 16 killed this year, seven were not wearing an available safety belt and one pedestrian was killed.




Ohio's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) recently received $949,968 from the U.S. Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to combat human trafficking.




The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently took action for the first time on a complaint filed under its newly established rules for residential sub-metering companies, finding that a Central Ohio woman's case should be dismissed because the utility reseller met safe harbor criteria established earlier this summer.


Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced that he has appointed Warren County Commissioner and former Sen. Shannon Jones to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council.


Kicking off a series of hearings on electric utility consumer protection bill HB247 (Romanchuk), the House Public Utilities Committee heard proponent testimony from a range of organizations including those representing manufacturers, small businesses, environmentalists and free market think tank representatives.


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Wednesday accepted the results of AEP Ohio's wholesale auction that will determine its default generation rates beginning June 1, 2018. The auction, held on Nov. 28, 2017 secured one-, two- and three-year products to supply electricity to AEP Ohio's utility customers. The results will be blended with future auctions to establish a price-to-compare for AEP Ohio's customers during the delivery period.




HB380, a bill that would block individuals residing in the U.S. illegally from receiving benefits through Ohio workers' compensation program, was approved by the House Insurance Committee Wednesday despite concerns expressed by the bill's opponents. Committee Chairman Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati) said he felt it was important that the committee moved the bill forward, saying that he hopes the bill's sponsors, Reps. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Larry Householder (R-Glenford), consider some of the opponents' concerns.



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