Week in Review
Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017
People traveling for the holidays
will encounter more messages from the state about how to stop children from
starting drug use and how to report suspected drug crimes to authorities after
billboard owners agreed to donate advertising space across Ohio. The Outdoor
Advertising Association of Ohio is donating close to 200 digital, poster and
bulletin billboard displays for the public awareness campaign featuring
messages from the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) and the Ohio
Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (Ohio MHAS).
In its latest "State Budgeting
Matters" report, the Center for Community Solutions (CCS) looked at the
state's efforts to address drug addiction through prevention, highlighting
strategies used throughout the state. CCS noted that drug overdoses are the
leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, and Ohio has the
second highest rate of overdose deaths of any state in the nation. Overdose
deaths involving other drugs, including alcohol and cocaine, are also on the
rise. CCS said Ohio's overdose death rate has exceeded the national average for
most of the past two decades, and has risen even more sharply than the rest of
the country in recent years.
Ohio farmers have a reason to be
optimistic even amid lagging profits from corn and soybeans, according to an
agricultural economist from the Ohio State University (OSU) College of Food,
Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). Farm incomes are expected to
increase this year nationally for the first time in four years, said Ani
Katchova, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Agricultural,
Environmental, and Development Economics.
The Trump administration has
appointed Leonard Hubert as state executive director for the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) Ohio Farm Service Agency (FSA). Hubert will join the Ohio
FSA team on Monday, Nov. 27, USDA said in a news release. Ohio Civil Rights
Commission (OCRC) spokesperson Mary Turocy told Hannah News that Hubert
will continue to chair the OCRC. Hubert's term expires on July 28, 2021.
AUDITOR OF STATE
report released by Auditor of State Dave Yost detailed numerous audit findings
which he said suggest some local government entities do not properly regulate
their processes of collecting and depositing incoming payments. Auditors have
identified more than $3.4 million in incoming payments in the past decade that
never made it into government accounts. The missing money involved at least 77
local governments and school districts. While not all of these cases were
definitively criminal, 53 employees at these entities were convicted of theft.
should expect steady growth in holiday retail sales thanks to slow but steady
statewide economic growth according to a report released this week by Ohio
Council of Retail Merchant's research organization Focus on Ohio's Future. The
report, prepared by the University of Cincinnati's (UC) Economics Center,
estimates a 2.04 percent increase in holiday retail spending from 2016 to 2017,
indicating a 9 percent total increase since 2015.
The Ohio Department of Education
(ODE) honored 12 schools across the state recently for achieving high academic
outcomes while serving a large population of low-income students. ODE named two
Schools of Promise, four High Performing Schools of Honor and nine High
Progress Schools of Honor, with two schools receiving more than one award. All
awards require the schools to serve at least 40 percent economically
disadvantaged students, while the other criteria for each award examine varying
levels of high performance on state tests and district assessments.
The U.S. Supreme Court has set oral
arguments on a case over whether Ohio can remove voters from the rolls for not
voting in federal elections for Jan. 10, 2018. The Court had scheduled the
case, Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, to be originally heard on
Nov. 8, but pushed it back because one of the attorneys in the case was on
medical leave, and the attorney who replaced him needed time to prepare.
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Bill O'Neill, a Democratic
gubernatorial candidate, ignited
controversy Friday with a Facebook post about having been "sexually
intimate with approximately 50 very attractive females ... in the last 50
years." His comments were made in regard to allegations against Sen. Al
Franken (D-MN), saying he was saving opponents research time, and adding that
he was disappointed "by this national feeding frenzy about sexual
indiscretions decades ago." Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor
condemned his comments, saying he showed "gross disrespect for
women," and his fellow candidates called for him to resign his seat and
withdraw from the race for governor. He posted further comments Friday night
intended to explain his earlier post, but on Sunday issued an apology, writing
in part, "I have damaged the national debate on the very real subject of
sexual harassment, abuse and, unfortunately, rape."
The Summit County
Republican Party Saturday announced it was endorsing Attorney General Mike
DeWine for governor, and two of his primary opponents criticized the move as
being decided by "party insiders."
The following endorsements were
made over the week:
The Ohio Department of Job and
Family Services (ODJFS) Friday released its figures on Ohio's unemployment rate
for October 2017, noting it was 5.1 percent, down from 5.3 percent in September
2017. Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 4,300 over
the month, from a revised 5,546,600 in September to 5,550,900 in October 2017.
Rover Pipeline LLC has received
federal approval to continue horizontal directional drilling (HDD) at four
crossings in Ohio.
The Ohio Lake Erie Commission and
the Kasich administration have taken another step to reduce phosphorus entering
Lake Erie under the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Ohio
Domestic Action Plan (DAP) 1.0 will be provided to the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (USEPA) for review and comment and to serve as Ohio's part of
the U.S. Domestic Action Plan, the final version of which is due in February
2018. The goal is to reduce phosphorous loading in Lake Erie by 40 percent by
Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg)
announced Monday that he is reintroducing legislation that would declare video
taken by body-worn cameras used by police as public records, but would also
outline exemptions for some of that video. Antani said that the bill seeks to
find a balance between protecting privacy of individuals and private businesses
and the public's right to records. He said lawmakers need to make sure that the
law follows new technology, and body cameras are a new technology where the law
is still ambiguous, especially when it comes to public records.
Jason Mauk will resign soon as chief
of staff to Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and take over operations of
the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. Mauk told Hannah News he's planned his departure for nearly a year, and
disclosed his intentions to leave at the outset of Obhof's presidency. He said
Obhof asked him to stay through completion of the FY18-19 budget, a timeline
that stretched into the fall as discussion of veto overrides left key elements
of the spending plan up in the air. He anticipates officially leaving in early
John Kasich's office said Tuesday he signed HB31 (Cupp), which eliminates some
defunct state entities and revives another. Lawmakers sent it to the governor's
office a day earlier, after final passage a few weeks ago.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Witnesses before the Ohio Department
of Medicaid (ODM) said Friday that they support home health care initiatives
like Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) but are opposed to ODM's proposed
rules on EVV as written. Several witnesses said they were voicing their
concerns to legislative representatives and would go before the Joint Committee
on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) in December if the rules did not change. The
rules are designed to prevent fraud by having home health care staff
electronically register visit times, and the 21st Century CURES Act requires a
system be in place by January 2019.
home health agency in Hamilton County owes the state $4.51 million for Medicaid
overpayments and interest stemming in part from patient care provided by nearly
80 unqualified employees. Personal Touch Home Care of Ohio was reimbursed $9.46
million by the Ohio Department of Medicaid from 2012 through 2014 for providing
home health services. State auditors determined that $4.25 million of that
amount was overpayment based on 773 errors in a sample of 1,728 services.
Work is underway on the second phase
of Ohio Northern University's solar initiative with a 1-megawatt solar array.
The first phase, a 2-megawatt array, was completed in early 2017. Together, the
two solar arrays will generate a total 15 percent of ONU's electricity needs,
reducing the university's carbon footprint by over 3,300 tons, equal to 315
More than 68,000 Ohio high school
students participated in the second year of College Credit Plus, an increase
over first-year participation, according to the Ohio Department of Higher
Education (ODHE). ODHE released the latest numbers on Tuesday showing 68,365
students participated in the program in the 2016-17 school year, which ODHE
said saved more than $144 million in higher education costs. The program allows
high school students to take college classes for college credit at a slightly
reduced cost or free. Slightly more than 54,000 students participated during
the 2015-16 academic year, the first year of the program, for a savings of
nearly $124 million.
The Ohio State University Moritz
College of Law earned top honors in the Ohio Attorney General's fifth annual
Public Service Mock Trial Competition for Ohio law school students.
October home sales nearly matched
record-setting figures from a year ago and also marked an increase from
September, the Ohio Association of Realtors (OAR) reported. October sales
reached 153,882, close to the 154,023 seen in October 2016, the strongest October
on record. Last month's figures represented a 2.6 percent increase over
Christopher Burd hasn't paid the
mortgage on his Blacklick home since 2011, according to Wells Fargo Bank, but
the 10th District Court of Appeals says the lender permanently forfeited the
right to foreclose on the FHA-insured loan when it failed to meet face-to-face
with Burd within the first three months of default. Wells Fargo has turned to
the Ohio Supreme Court, noting the magnitude of government-backed loans in Ohio
and the U.S., 5 percent of which are considered "seriously
delinquent," the bank says. The Court accepted the bank's appeal in
October but has yet to set a briefing schedule.
The Ohio Supreme Court announced
Monday that three dozen court professionals achieved national certification
this week through the Court Management Program, bringing to nearly 300 the
number of certified court managers employed in Ohio.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP)
received 370 medical marijuana dispensary applications, the Ohio Medical
Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) announced Monday.
young hunters checked 4,958 white-tailed deer during the two-day youth gun
season, Nov. 18-19, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
and natural gas shale well operators have spent more than $302 million on Ohio
roads and bridges through road use maintenance agreements (RUMAs) since 2011,
according to an industry report released Tuesday. The Energy In Depth (EID)
report, "Ohio's Oil and Gas Industry Road Improvement Payments," says
RUMA funds have been used to address more than 639 miles of roadway in Belmont,
Carroll, Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe and Noble counties.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced it is waiving campsite
fees for the night of Friday, Nov. 24 to encourage families to spend time
enjoying their Black Friday outdoors instead of in shopping malls and stores.
Ohio Women's Policy Network (WPPN) announced Tuesday that Elizabeth Brown has
joined the group as its new part-time executive director. Currently, Brown is
serving her first term on Columbus City Council, where a number of her
legislative priorities have focused on strengthening women and families,
including passing a paid family leave policy.
Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) announced recently that it will be offering a
limited-time tax amnesty program beginning Monday, Jan. 1, 2018 and ending
Thursday, Feb. 15. The Ohio Tax Amnesty is available to eligible taxpayers --
individuals and businesses -- with unreported or underreported tax debts.
During the six-week amnesty period, taxpayers who fully pay qualifying tax
delinquencies will owe no penalties and only half of the interest normally
charged. To learn more and to determine eligibility for the program, interested
taxpayers and tax practitioners should go to http://www.ohiotaxamnesty.gov/. Questions can also be
directed to ODT via its toll-free phone number at 800-304-3211.
Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) on Monday approved the
purchase of 16 automated toll payment machines (ATPMs). The machines and spare
parts will cost nearly $2.6 million, according to the resolution that was adopted
during the commission's monthly meeting.
The House Public Utilities Committee
will launch a series of hearings next Tuesday on HB247's (Romanchuk) push to
eliminate electric security plans and non-bypassable bill riders that slow the competitive
market. Chairman Robert Cupp (R-Lima) told the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC)
Governing Board Tuesday that Rep. Mark Romanchuk's (R-Mansfield) watershed
legislation will be a top consideration going into the final weeks of 2017.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
brought together Ohio veterans and various veterans' organizations in Columbus
Tuesday for a hearing of the Senate Veterans' Affairs committee.
At the Columbus Metropolitan Library, Brown was joined by U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty
(D- Columbus); Chip Tansill, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans
Services; Keith Harman, commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars
(VFW); Melissa Twine, an Air Force veteran; and James Powers, an Army and Army
national guard veteran.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers'
Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors approved an investment report Friday
showing net returns of 7.5 percent in FY17, eclipsing the bureau's performance
over the previous three, five and 10 years. BWC investments earned $1.878
billion in the recent fiscal year from assets allocated 55.1 percent to bonds,
32.8 percent to stocks, 10.5 percent to real estate, and 1.6 percent to cash.
The Franklin County commissioners
have approved contracts with the Columbus/Central Ohio Building and
Construction Trades Council and local service provider Impact Community Action
to administer a pilot program designed to help county residents transition into
apprentice programs that lead to well-paying skilled construction trades
careers. The program, called Building Futures, will provide both "soft
skills" and trade-specific training before culminating in apprenticeship
entrance assessment. Participants may progress directly from this program to a
traditional apprenticeship in one of the skilled construction trades.