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Legislative Report February 22, 2024
Prepared by: Government Relations Staff
Government Relations Legislative Report
135th General Assembly

This legislative report is intended to keep section members up to date on legislation pending before the Ohio General Assembly.
Bill Information
PROPERTY, INCOME TAX CHANGES
(MATHEWS A)

To modify the law regarding property taxation and income tax rates.

  CURRENT STATUS

4/25/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Seventh Hearing)

STATE FUNDING-CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS
(CUTRONA A, UPCHURCH T)

To create local jail facility funding programs and to make certain capital appropriations for the biennium ending June 30, 2026.

  CURRENT STATUS

2/7/2024 - PASSED BY HOUSE; Vote 75-19

AFFORDABLE HOUSING TAX CREDIT
(PAVLIGA G, MCNALLY L)

To authorize a nonrefundable tax credit for
the construction or rehabilitation of certain
federally subsidized rental housing and to
authorize a uniform method for the tax valuation
of most such housing.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/13/2023 - SUBSTITUTE BILL ACCEPTED, House Economic and Workforce Development, (Fifth Hearing)

FAIR ACCESS TO FINANCIAL SERVICES ACT
(YOUNG T, KING A)

To enact Ohio's Fair Access to Financial Services Act regarding financial institutions and other businesses that conduct economic boycotts or discriminate against certain companies or customers based on certain factors and to make an appropriation.

  CURRENT STATUS

11/14/2023 - SUBSTITUTE BILL ACCEPTED, House Financial Institutions, (First Hearing)

FY24-25 OPERATING BUDGET
(EDWARDS J)

To make operating appropriations for the biennium beginning July 1, 2023, and ending June 30, 2025, to levy taxes, and to provide authorization and conditions for the operation of state programs.

  CURRENT STATUS

1/24/2024 - Consideration of Governor's Veto; Senate Overrides Veto, Vote 24-8

REFUNDABLE INCOME TAX CREDIT
(SKINDELL M, ISAACSOHN D)

To make the earned income tax credit partially refundable.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/9/2023 - House Ways and Means, (First Hearing)

VETERAN HIRING TAX CREDITS
(SCHMIDT J, MILLER A)

To authorize refundable tax credits for hiring certain veterans, service members, and their spouses.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/13/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Second Hearing)

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION-INFLATION INDEX
(HALL T, DEMETRIOU S)

To index the homestead exemption amounts to inflation.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/31/2023 - Referred to Committee Senate Ways and Means

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION-EXPANDED QUALIFICATIONS
(TROY D)

To increase the amount of and expand the income qualifications for the homestead exemption.

  CURRENT STATUS

4/18/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Fourth Hearing)

TOBACCO PRODUCT BAD DEBTS
(HALL T, STOLTZFUS R)

Regarding the deduction and recovery of bad debts for cigarette and tobacco and vapor products taxes.

  CURRENT STATUS

10/11/2023 - Senate Ways and Means, (Fourth Hearing)

HOMESTEAD TAX EXEMPTION - DISABLED VETERANS
(PATTON T)

To authorize a total property tax exemption for the homesteads of totally disabled veterans and their surviving spouses.

  CURRENT STATUS

9/12/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Third Hearing)

INCREASE MINIMUM WAGE
(JARRELLS D, MOHAMED I)

To increase the state minimum wage.

  CURRENT STATUS

3/14/2023 - Referred to Committee House Commerce and Labor

MUNICIPAL INCOME TAX RETURNS EXTENSIONS
(THOMAS J)

To modify the law regarding extensions for filing municipal income tax returns and to limit penalties for late filings.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/31/2023 - Referred to Committee Senate Ways and Means

PAY STUB PROTECTION ACT
(JARRELLS D, LIPPS S)

To enact the Pay Stub Protection Act requiring employers to provide earnings and deductions statements to each of the employer's employees.

  CURRENT STATUS

9/26/2023 - Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity, (First Hearing)

NONPROFIT WORKFORCE REINVESTMENT ACT
(SANTUCCI N, MILLER A)

To enact the Nonprofit Workforce Reinvestment Act to allow certain tax-exempt retailers to retain a portion of state sales taxes to fund employment services.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/23/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Third Hearing)

TAXPAYER DEDUCTIONS
(PETERSON B, CLAGGETT T)

To allow taxpayers to deduct in a single year the full bonus depreciation and enhanced expensing allowances the taxpayer deducts for federal income tax purposes.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/2/2023 - REPORTED OUT, House Ways and Means, (Fourth Hearing)

REMOTE WORKERS - MODIFIED MUNICIPAL INCOME TAX
(ROBB BLASDEL M, MATHEWS A)

To allow businesses with remote workers to use a modified municipal income tax apportionment formula.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/21/2023 - Referred to Committee Senate Ways and Means

TAX DEDUCTIONS - 529 PLANS
(MATHEWS A, SANTUCCI N)

To modify the income tax deductions for contributions to 529 plans and ABLE accounts.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/6/2023 - REPORTED OUT, House Ways and Means, (Fourth Hearing)

TAX EXEMPTION - MILITARY PAY
(MATHEWS A, MILLER A)

To expand a municipal income tax exemption for military pay.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/23/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Third Hearing)

CLASSIFY CERTAIN PAYMENTS - INVESTORS
(KING A, YOUNG T)

To classify certain guaranteed payments to pass-through entity investors as business income.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/9/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Third Hearing)

TEMPORARY AGRICULTURAL WORKERS - TAXES
(STEIN D)

To authorize certain municipalities to levy a tax on providers of housing for temporary foreign agricultural workers.

  CURRENT STATUS

11/28/2023 - SUBSTITUTE BILL ACCEPTED, House Ways and Means, (Fourth Hearing)

VICARIOUS LIABILITY IN TORT ACTIONS
(MATHEWS A, STEWART B)

Relative to vicarious liability in tort actions and to provide that the tolling of the limitations period during the defendant's absence or concealment does not apply to statutes of repose.

  CURRENT STATUS

1/24/2024 - Referred to Committee Senate Judiciary

PROCEDURES FOR PROPERTY TAX VALUES
(HALL T, BIRD A)

To make changes to the law governing real property valuation and tax complaints, to temporarily modify the computation of the homestead exemption, to abate property taxes on certain municipal and community improvement corporation property, to make an appropriation, and to declare an emergency.

  CURRENT STATUS

12/6/2023 - PASSED BY SENATE; Vote 31-0, Emergency Clause 29-2

ELECTRONIC TAX PAYMENTS
(ROEMER B, DEMETRIOU S)

Regarding the Treasurer of State and the electronic payment of taxes.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/7/2023 - Referred to Committee House State and Local Government

PERSONAL INCOME TAX JOINT FILER CREDIT
(YOUNG T, DEAN B)

To modify the computation of the personal income tax joint filer credit.

  CURRENT STATUS

9/19/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Fifth Hearing)

PASS-THROUGH ENTITY TAXES
(CALLENDER J, YOUNG T)

To modify the income tax treatment of income subject to other states' pass-through entity taxes.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/27/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Second Hearing)

ADAMH BOARDS
(PIZZULLI J)

Regarding the composition of boards of alcohol, drug addiction, and mental health services; the authority of the boards; and the requirements for operation of recovery housing residences.

  CURRENT STATUS

9/12/2023 - Referred to Committee House Behavioral Health

HOMESTEAD TAX EXEMPTION - DISABLED VETERANS
(RICHARDSON T, HOLMES A)

To expand and enhance the homestead property tax exemption for disabled veterans.

  CURRENT STATUS

12/5/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Third Hearing)

PROPERTY TAX FREEZE
(ISAACSOHN D, HALL T)

To authorize a property tax freeze for certain owner-occupied homes.

  CURRENT STATUS

2/6/2024 - SUBSTITUTE BILL ACCEPTED, House Ways and Means, (Fourth Hearing)

PROPERTY TAX HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
(MATHEWS A, DELL'AQUILA R)

To authorize an enhanced property tax homestead exemption for certain long-term homeowners.

  CURRENT STATUS

12/12/2023 - House Ways and Means, (Third Hearing)

PHASE OUT STATE INCOME TAX
(MATHEWS A, LAMPTON B)

To phase-out the state income tax on nonbusiness income over six years and to repeal the commercial activity tax after 2029.

  CURRENT STATUS

2/6/2024 - Referred to Committee House Ways and Means

BLOCKCHAIN BASICS ACT
(DEMETRIOU S)

To prohibit certain state and local government actions respecting digital asset mining, to exempt certain digital currency transactions from state and local income taxes, to prohibit local charges on digital assets, to require the state retirement systems to evaluate certain digital asset investments, and to name this act the Ohio Blockchain Basics Act.

  CURRENT STATUS

2/12/2024 - Introduced

FILM, THEATER TAX CREDITS
(SCHURING K)

To modify the film and theater tax credit and to authorize a tax credit for capital improvement projects relating to the film and theater industries.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/24/2023 - Senate Ways and Means, (Third Hearing)

ESG POLICIES-STATE ENTITIES
(SCHURING K)

Regarding environmental, social, and corporate governance policies with respect to the state retirement systems, Bureau of Workers' Compensation, and state institutions of higher education.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/23/2023 - Referred to Committee House Financial Institutions

INTERNAL REVENUE CODE CHANGES
(BLESSING III L)

To amend section 5701.11 of the Revised Code and to amend Sections 225.12, 265.10, 265.20, and 701.10 of H.B. 45 of the 134th General Assembly to expressly incorporate changes in the Internal Revenue Code since February 17, 2022, into Ohio law, to make changes to the Emergency Rental Assistance program, to revise an existing earmark, to modify the requirements for a temporary arts economic relief grant program, and to declare an emergency.

  CURRENT STATUS

3/15/2023 - SIGNED BY GOVERNOR; eff. immediately

NON-RECOURSE CIVIL LITIGATION
(WILSON S)

To amend the law regarding the non-recourse civil litigation advance business.

  CURRENT STATUS

12/6/2023 - SUBSTITUTE BILL ACCEPTED, Senate Judiciary, (Second Hearing)

INTERNAL REVENUE CODE CHANGES
(ROEGNER K)

To expressly incorporate changes in the Internal Revenue Code since February 17, 2022, into Ohio law and to declare an emergency.

  CURRENT STATUS

1/17/2023 - Referred to Committee Senate Ways and Means

TAX EXEMPTION-BABY PRODUCTS
(SCHAFFER T)

To exempt certain baby products from sales and use tax.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/7/2023 - Referred to Committee House Ways and Means

HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION-VETERAN SPOUSES
(BRENNER A)

To modify the homestead exemption for the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran.

  CURRENT STATUS

7/28/2023 - SIGNED BY GOVERNOR; eff. 90 days

ELECTRONIC LICENSING APPLICATION REQUIREMENT
(BRENNER A)

To require a state occupational licensing agency to accept electronic license applications.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/20/2023 - Referred to Committee House State and Local Government

911 SERVICE LAW CHANGES
(WILSON S, SMITH K)

To make changes to the law governing 9-1-1 service and to repeal program requirements for emergency-service-telecommunicator training.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/6/2023 - REPORTED OUT, Senate Financial Institutions and Technology, (Eighth Hearing)

ASBESTOS CLAIMS-DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS
(LANG G)

To require a plaintiff in a tort action alleging an asbestos claim to file specified disclosures.

  CURRENT STATUS

11/15/2023 - REPORTED OUT, Senate Insurance, (Sixth Hearing)

ELECTRONIC TAX PAYMENTS, STATE TREASURER
(GAVARONE T)

Regarding the Treasurer of State and the electronic payment of taxes.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/7/2023 - Referred to Committee House State and Local Government

JEDD FORMATION REQUIREMENTS
(BLESSING III L)

To allow two or more municipalities to create a joint economic development district without involving a township.

  CURRENT STATUS

10/24/2023 - Referred to Committee House Economic and Workforce Development

HIGH-VOLUME LANDLORD TAX
(BLESSING III L, ANTONIO N)

To levy a tax on certain high-volume landlords.

  CURRENT STATUS

3/22/2023 - Senate Ways and Means, (Second Hearing)

TAX-EXEMPT RETAILERS-EMPLOYMENT
(REYNOLDS M, INGRAM C)

To allow certain tax-exempt retailers to retain a portion of state sales taxes to fund employment services.

  CURRENT STATUS

3/29/2023 - Senate Ways and Means, (Second Hearing)

HIGHER EDUCATION OPERATIONS ENHANCEMENT
(CIRINO J)

To enact the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act regarding the operation of state institutions of higher education, and to revise the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act.

  CURRENT STATUS

1/3/2024 - Re-Referred to Committee

ENTER SOCIAL WORKER COMPACT
(ROEGNER K)

To enter into the Social Work Licensure Compact.

  CURRENT STATUS

1/9/2024 - REPORTED OUT, House Commerce and Labor, (Fourth Hearing)

FRAUDULENT, DECEPTIVE BUSINESS PRACTICES
(RULLI M)

To address fraudulent business filings, deceptive mailings, reinstatement of canceled business entities, and addresses of statutory agents.

  CURRENT STATUS

1/9/2024 - Referred to Committee House State and Local Government

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION LAW CHANGES
(LANG G, ROMANCHUK M)

To make changes to Ohio's Unemployment Compensation Law.

  CURRENT STATUS

6/7/2023 - Senate Insurance, (Third Hearing)

TAX CREDITS-SINGLE FAMILY HOMES
(SCHURING K)

To authorize a nonrefundable, transferable income tax credit for the construction of new, or conversion of rental housing into, owner-occupied single family homes.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/24/2023 - Senate Ways and Means, (Third Hearing)

FAIRNESS ACT-DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITIONS
(ANTONIO N)

To enact the Ohio Fairness Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, to add mediation as an informal method that the Ohio Civil Rights Commission may use, and to uphold existing religious exemptions under Ohio's Civil Rights Law.

  CURRENT STATUS

9/13/2023 - Referred to Committee Senate Government Oversight

FRAUDULENT CLAIMS WITH STATE
(HICKS-HUDSON P, DEMORA B)

Regarding filing false or fraudulent claims with the state and defrauding the state of money or property.

  CURRENT STATUS

9/13/2023 - Referred to Committee Senate General Government

INCREASE STATE MINIMUM WAGE
(SMITH K, CRAIG H)

To increase the state minimum wage.

  CURRENT STATUS

9/27/2023 - Senate Workforce and Higher Education, (First Hearing)

TEMPORARY TAX VALUATION CHANGES
(LANG G, JOHNSON T)

To temporarily modify the method for valuing farmland and other real property for tax purposes.

  CURRENT STATUS

10/11/2023 - Senate Ways and Means, (Fourth Hearing)

STATE INCOME TAX-PHASE OUT
(LANG G, HUFFMAN S)

To phase-out the state income tax on nonbusiness income over six years and to repeal the commercial activity tax after 2029.

  CURRENT STATUS

1/24/2024 - Referred to Committee Senate Ways and Means

LEGISLATIVE CODE OF ETHICS
(SCHURING K)

To adopt the Legislative Code of Ethics for the members and employees of
both chambers of the 135th General Assembly, employees of any legislative
agency, and candidates for the 136th General Assembly.

  CURRENT STATUS

5/24/2023 - ADOPTED BY HOUSE; Vote 88-0

logoWeek in Review

Friday, Feb. 16, 2024

AGRICULTURE

Longtime Ohio State Fair General Manager Virgil Strickler will remain part of the fair despite retiring, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday before unveiling a bust of Strickler that will be displayed alongside the state Agricultural Hall of Fame in the Ohio Expo Center's Kasich Hall. DeWine said he received "quite a tour" from Strickler after being elected governor, adding Strickler knows "a great history of the fair" and calling him "Mr. State Fair." He also detailed how Strickler started the fair's Youth Reserve Program, which has provided millions of dollars to 4-H and FFA programs.

APPALACHIA

Coal-impacted communities can now apply for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) initiative, according to a Tuesday announcement by the Ohio Department of Development (DOD). The POWER initiative is run by ARC in partnership with the Governor's Office of Appalachia, and targets projects that support workforce and economic development in communities affected by the downturn in the coal industry. Letters of intent are due Friday, March 1 and applications are due by Wednesday, April 17.

ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Men's Basketball Committee should continue holding the "First Four" games of the March Madness basketball tournament at the University of Dayton, four members of Ohio's congressional delegation wrote in a letter. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Centerville) and U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Troy) also asked the committee to expand Dayton's role by allowing it to host the first and second rounds of the tournament in 2027 and 2028.

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

Ohio Department of Children and Youth Director Kara Wente joined a Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) panel Wednesday for a forum on the economics of child care. The forum also featured Eric Karolak, CEO of Action for Children; Aslyne Rodriguez, senior director of Regional Strategic Partnerships for the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA); and Carol Haynes, executive director of Kiddie Academy. While many industries have recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic, the panelists said child care is one industry still feeling the effects of closures. Haynes said her centers that closed during the pandemic have continued to struggle with enrollment while those that "operated as pandemic centers" recovered sooner.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Encounters with law enforcement come with a list of rights and responsibilities for all Americans. But following incidents like those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Jayland Walker in recent years, police interactions with Black Americans have drawn even more scrutiny. The ACLU of Ohio Monday released a series of videos entitled, "Know Your Rights: Rights Versus Reality," in which a citizen's rights concerning law enforcement are discussed, how those rights are seen differently to people of color and how citizens can respond to various police interactions.

EAST PALESTINE DERAILMENT

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) Wednesday called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a voluntary disease registry for East Palestine residents due to the train derailment over a year ago. HHS should also use its full authority to ensure affordable treatment for potential long-term health effects of the derailment, they said. HHS and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) should establish and maintain the national registry of serious diseases and illnesses among persons exposed to toxic substances, making it voluntary for East Palestine residents, they continued. Residents have requested such a voluntary tracking and investigation of possible trends in illness and recovery, according to Brown and Vance.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/URBAN REVITALIZATION

The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Wednesday that 23 movie and television productions will receive more than $44 million in tax credits through the Motion Picture Tax Credit Program. The projects are expected to create 530 full-time jobs and generate nearly $503 million in production expenses, including $146.7 million in total eligible production expenses. Under the tax credit program, refundable tax credit awards represent 30 percent of production cast and crew wages and other in-state spending for eligible productions. Those can include feature-length films, documentaries, pre-Broadway productions, television series, miniseries, video games and music videos. Tax credits are awarded to television series and miniseries first, then all others, based on the positive economic impact for Ohio and the effect on permanent workforce.

EDUCATION

The State Board of Education (SBOE) resumed committee work this week as it adapts to its new role in Ohio's K-12 governance structure. Board President Paul LaRue told Hannah News he's appointed leaders for the following four committees:

- Policies and Procedures Manual: Vice President Martha Manchester, chair; Diana Fessler, vice chair

- Budget: LaRue, chair; Brendan Shea, vice chair

- Legislative: Charlotte McGuire, chair; Jim Mermis, vice chair

- Second Chance/Licensure: John Hagan, chair; Meryl Johnson, vice chair

The SBOE is expected to move to the William Green Building in downtown Columbus, State Superintendent Paul Craft told members Monday. The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) has given the board "notice" of the move, Craft told Hannah News. "We haven't seen anything in writing yet, but the DAS director herself said 'this is our plan,'" Craft said. The William Green Building, located at 30 W. Spring St., is about four blocks north of the board's current meeting place at the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), 25 S. Front St. Craft said he tentatively expects the move in April. Craft also hinted that SBOE might not be alone in its move in response to board member Walt Davis who asked if DEW "gets to stay" in the building at 25 S. Front.

SBOE’s looming deficit is deep enough that it could require steps as drastic as cutting a third or half the staff or increasing license fees that teachers pay by more than 50 percent, Craft told board members Monday as the panel undertook Budget Committee discussions on tackling the crisis. Board members voted later Monday to request a $10 million General Revenue Fund (GRF) transfer to bridge the gap to the next biennium. Craft said board revenues are estimated at about $11.5 million this and next year, but FY24 and FY25 spending is expected to run $15.4 million and $17.4 million, respectively. That will wipe out the current cash balance of about $1.8 million and put the board $4 million in the hole by the end of the biennium, absent a solution, Craft said. The agency is already about 10 positions below its 70 budgeted positions, and the Office of Budget and Management won't approve any further hiring until the board has a plan to fix the deficit in place.

The SBOE reviewed the Resident Educator Program Monday, with some members questioning whether the mentoring program is worth the money amid an impending budget shortfall due to the board's restructuring under HB33 (Edwards). The Resident Educator (RE) Program, which began in 2011, is meant to improve teacher retention. It offers mentoring and professional development to beginning teachers. The two-year program also requires participants to pass the Resident Educator Summative Assessment (RESA), which makes them eligible for a professional teaching license. Craft told members the program, which draws on licensure fees, is one of the largest expenditures for the board. The RESA alone costs about $1.9 million this year due to changes under the state operating budget. The assessment costs about $1 million on a regular year-to-year basis. Several board members questioned whether they're getting that much value out of the program.

The House Primary and Secondary Education Committee Tuesday heard a wave of proponent testimony from supporters of legislation to provide educational savings accounts (ESAs) to students at nonchartered nonpublic (NCNP) schools, formerly known as "08" schools. In sponsor testimony, Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery) said HB339 is needed to correct an "oversight" from the voucher expansion in HB33 (Edwards). The "unintended consequence of utilizing the voucher program ... rather than the educational savings program is to eliminate this population of students from school choice," he said. Over 50 individuals, including parents, students, and NCNP school leaders appeared in-person or submitted testimony in support of the bill.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Board of Directors on Thursday unanimously approved a proposal to expand the number of divisions in soccer, basketball, softball, baseball and girls volleyball. With the amendment to General Sports Regulation 17, girls and boys soccer will now have five divisions, while girls volleyball, girls and boys basketball, softball and baseball will all have seven divisions. In those sports, Division I and Division II will only include 64 schools, according to OHSAA.

ELECTIONS 2024

The following endorsements were made over the week:

- The Ohio Right to Life PAC endorsed Frank LaRose and Bernie Moreno for U.S. Senate; Shane Wilkin, Reggie Stoltzfus, Michael Rulli, Craig Riedel, Kevin Coughlin, and Chris Banweg for Congress; George Lang, Kyle Koehler, and Sandra O'Brien for Ohio Senate; and Brian Stewart, Mike Dovilla, Cindy Abrams, Thomas Hall, Sara Carruthers, Kellie Deeter, Adam Mathews, Beth Lear, Jean Schmidt, Dave Thomas, Sharon Ray, Kevin Miller, Gail Pavliga, Haraz Ghanbari, Meredith Craig, Josh Hlavaty, Bill Albright, Jon Cross, Tracy Richardson, D.J. Swearingen, Justin Pizzulli, Kevin Ritter, and Don Jones for Ohio House.

- Ohio Values Voters endorsed Ron Hood, Jim Jordan, Bob Latta, Reggie Stoltzfus, Max Miller, and Warren Davidson for Congress; Candice Keller, Susan Manchester, Jerry Cirino, Tim Schaffer, Mark Romanchuk and Sandra O'Brien for Ohio Senate; and Brian Stewart, Aaron Borowski, Mike Dovilla, Jenn Giroux, George Brunemann, Josiah Leinbach, Josh Williams, Jennifer Gross, Diane Mullis, Jodi Salvo, Anthony Savage, Michele Teska, Kathy Grossman, Heather Salyer, Beth Lear, Adam Bird, Gary Fox, Melanie Miller, Thad Claggett, Levi Dean, Heidi Workman, Mike Tussey, Marilyn John, Bill Albright, Dennis Finley, Josh Hlavaty, Matt Huffman, Jonathan Newman, Roy Klopfenstein, Ty Mathews, Angie King, Tim Barhorst, Gary Click, Steven Kraus, Gina Collinsworth, Kevin Ritter and Mark Hiner for Ohio House. The group previously endorsed Craig Riedel for Congress and Bernie Moreno for U.S. Senate.

- The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors Political Action Committee (NAW-PAC) endorsed Frank LaRose for U.S. Senate.

- The congressional campaign of Republican Shane Wilkin announced the endorsement of former Ohio Senate President Doug White.

- The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

- The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus endorsed Amy Cox for Congress; Willis Blackshear Jr. for Ohio Senate; Ismail Mohamed, Meredith Lawson-Rowe and Terrence Upchurch for Ohio House; the proposed Citizens Not Politicians redistricting reform amendment; and the proposed Raise the Wage Ohio $15 minimum wage amendment.

- The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund endorsed Dontavius Jarrells, Latyna Humphrey, Meredith Lawson-Rowe, Christine Cockley, Allison Russo, Sarah Pomeroy, Chris Glassburn, Phil Robinson, Eric Synenberg, Dani Isaacsohn, Cecil Thomas, Rachel Baker, Jessica Miranda, Stefanie Hawk, Derrick Hall, Rose Lounsbury, Desiree Tims, Erika White, and Joe Rinehart for Ohio House; and Willis Blackshear Jr., Beth Liston, and Casey Weinstein for Ohio Senate.

ENERGY/UTILITIES

Former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Sam Randazzo and former FirstEnergy executives Chuck Jones and Michael Dowling are out on bond and under electronic surveillance after surrendering to authorities Monday afternoon in 133-HB6's (Callender-Wilkin) $61 million bribery scandal and appearing in Summit County Common Pleas Court for arraignment Tuesday. All pleaded not guilty to 60 state felony charges including bribery, aggravated theft, engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity and money laundering, among other crimes, and were each released on $100,000 bond by Judge Susan Baker Ross. However, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost left the door open to more indictments. "This indictment is about way more than one piece of legislation," Yost said, referring to ill-fated energy subsidy 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). "It is about the hostile capture of a significant portion of Ohio's state government by deception, betrayal and dishonesty."

Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Tuesday he was looking for a "subject matter expert in the area of utilities" when he appointed Sam Randazzo as PUCO chairman in early 2019. "There was no one that knew more [than Randazzo] ... and that's why we picked him. We know he had been on both sides of the issue. He had a very good way of explaining issues and had a really great depth of knowledge of some very, very difficult issues," DeWine continued in response to questions about Randazzo's recent indictment on state charges. Asked about a dinner he had with Jones and Dowling in December 2018 and the PUCO appointment process, DeWine said, "I don't remember it coming up in the discussion."

Wednesday, DeWine defended his former chief of staff and current advisor after a report said she had been told by Randazzo about a $4.3 million payout from FirstEnergy before he took the job with the commission. The Cleveland Plain Dealer, citing the indictment against Randazzo and the executives, reported Tuesday that Laurel Dawson, DeWine's former chief of staff, who assumed a role as an advisor in 2021, had been informed of the payment to Randazzo by FirstEnergy in January 2019, which he had categorized as a final payment of a consulting agreement. The newspaper said Dawson had testified as a witness to the grand jury that handed down the indictments.

On other topics, DeWine said he has so far received positive feedback from his administration's latest draft of gender affirming care rules. He reiterated that it was never his administration's intent to restrict care, but they wanted to make sure the quality of care is good. He doesn't anticipate major future revisions, though they will continue to listen to input. "I think we've come up with something that will in fact work with children," he said. "I know some people might say why do you even put it out since the Legislature overrode your veto ... The answer is we don't know what courts are going to do. I think having these rules in place, if in fact there is a stay issued by a court, just makes sense."

PUCO Chair Jenifer French can continue her service into 2029 after Gov. DeWine reappointed her to the regulatory body Friday. DeWine's office confirmed Friday the governor intends also to redesignate her as chair, a separate process from her reappointment to the commission seat. DeWine first named French, a former Franklin County common pleas judge, to the commission in 2021, following the resignation of Sam Randazzo, who left amid scrutiny over the HB6 scandal and has since been indicted.

New Albany Data Center (NADC) will enjoy a renewable, eight-year discount from American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio to energize up to 1.5 million square feet of space in Central Ohio. The "reasonable" arrangement will help the LLC secure Lincoln Rackhouse's $500 million investment in the Silicon Heartland Data Center Campus -- its official name -- and to employ 25- 50 workers when complete. The Ohio Revised Code allows the PUCO to approve favorable electric rates for mercantile customers consuming at least 700 megawatts (MW) of electricity per year. AEP and NADC requested the special arrangement last September in a joint filing to PUCO.

The PUCO has reversed course and will now hold full public hearings in Philadelphia-based Inspire Energy Holdings' $160,000 civil forfeiture negotiated in private by agency staff. PUCO previously found the competitive retail electric service (CRES) had advertised monthly rates as low as $59 on enrollment, later hiking them to as much as $699.99 per month for customers' remaining contract period. Inspire was accused of misleading and deceptive statements, fraudulent enrollments, and falsely identifying company marketers as city officials. Commissioners relented last week and granted two of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel’s (OCC) six allegations of error against PUCO.

FEDERAL

The Inflation Reduction Act's provision allowing the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices with pharmaceutical companies is expected to save Medicare $100 billion over 10 years, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra told Columbus officials on Monday. "That's $100 billion that we get to keep in Medicare and in the pockets of Medicare beneficiaries," Becerra said during a roundtable discussion at the Columbus Urban League, joined by U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus). Becerra said Medicare started negotiations with pharmaceutical companies on 10 drugs earlier this month, and the administration will announce the new prices in September. The 10 drugs involved in the negotiation include Eliquis (treats blood clots), Jardiance (diabetes and heart failure), Xarelto (blood clots and coronary or peripheral artery disease), Januvia (diabetes), Farxiga (diabetes, heart failure and chronic kidney disease), Entresto (heart failure), Enbrel (rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis), Imbruvica (blood cancers), Stelara (psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis); and Fiasp/NovoLog (diabetes).

GAMING/GAMBLING

One full year of legal sports gambling in Ohio has seen a significant increase in calls to the state's problem gambling helpline, with the number of calls up to 10,637 in 2023 from 6,835 in 2022, or an increase of 55 percent. In response to the growing need for resources for problem gambling, the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio (PGNO) hosted a conference Thursday, Feb. 15 and Friday, Feb. 16 for national experts, state leaders and other innovators to discuss problem gambling prevention, recovery and research. Both days of the conference started with an open recovery meeting for individuals in recovery for problem gambling as they prepare to take part in the conference.

The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) should not prohibit wagers on individual performances of college athletes, sports betting operators told OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler in public comments. Several sportsbooks filed public comments in response to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) request that OCCC ban prop bets on college athletes. The comments were obtained by Hannah News through a public records request. BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and Fanatics filed comments together, telling OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler that the NCAA's request would have unintended consequences.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott Wednesday denied a motion seeking to bar the use of the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) campaign account by House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) as OHRA begins spending to protect incumbents with primary opponents next month. Reps. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee), Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and Ron Ferguson (R-Winterville) filed the lawsuit against Stephens, OHRA Co-Chair Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) and J. Matthew Yuskewich, who serves as the OHRA treasurer, arguing that Stephens has falsely claimed to be in charge of the account even though they say a majority of the caucus elected Merrin as chair of the caucus and Plummer as the vice chair. On Feb. 1, the three lawmakers filed a motion asking the judge to block Stephens and others from making expenditures to or from any bank account associated with OHRA's Legislative Campaign Fund (LCF) while the litigation is ongoing and from operating the campaign fund in any manner, including issuing statements that purport to be made by the campaign fund.

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) heard an update on Statehouse security as part of Executive Director Laura Battocletti's report Thursday, including the possibility of instituting background checks before lobbyists receive access badges. Battocletti said they are the only group not subject to that currently and it would involve a one-time fee of $40. Those discussions have been internal and Battocletti said lobbyists have not yet been consulted on the potential change. She also discussed efforts to maintain security at the Statehouse loading dock, including the Ohio State Highway Patrol's (OSHP) stationing a trooper there during daytime hours. There have been changes to the external and internal cameras as well, which can lead to better identification of people if needed.

As part of the Capitol Square Foundation (CSF) report, CSF Chair Charles Moses moved to accept the nominations of NASA Chief Flight Director Gene Kranz, U.S. Rep. John Bingham and artist Howard Christy as "Great Ohioans." "These three selections represent Ohio's diversity in different fields of endeavor. An artist, a dedicated public servant and a leader in the United States' effort in space exploration. All three made profound contributions to Ohio's unique place in national and world history," Moses commented. Specifically, Kranz was flight director in the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs and is depicted in the "Ohioans in Space" painting; Bingham was vital to drafting the 14th Amendment; and Christy painted two of the artworks now hanging in the Statehouse. Those nominations were approved by the board.

For two decades, Rep. Beryl Brown Piccolantonio (D-Gahanna) has been involved in state and local government, though her commitment to public service goes back further. Growing up in Mayfield Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Piccolantonio told Hannah News her parents modeled community service, with both being active in the community. Her father, Eric Brown, also served on the local school board. Piccolantonio said she decided to run for the seat because she knows she has a thorough and deep understanding of both state and local government, and how they interact and how they actually can best serve people. She also said she felt her skill set was an important one to have for a legislator.

In legislative action, the House Transportation Committee reported out naming bills HB255 (Claggett) and HB381 (Brennan).

GOVERNOR

Appointments made during the week include the following:

- Michael A. Rex of Athens (Athens County) reappointed to the Wildlife Council for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Jan. 31, 2028.

- Heather B. Robinson of Powell (Delaware County) to the Wildlife Council for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Jan. 31, 2028.

- Adam M. Conway of Granville (Licking County), Danielle R. Gill of Logan (Hocking County) and Paul Parks Mechling II of Pierpont (Ashtabula County) reappointed to the Forestry Advisory Council for terms beginning March 1, 2024 and ending Feb. 29, 2028.

- Charleta B. Tavares of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Elections Commission for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Dec. 31, 2028.

- Karl C. Kerschner of Tiffin (Seneca County) to the Ohio Elections Commission for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Dec. 31, 2028.

- Peyton B. Morrow of Shreve (Wayne County) to the Miami University Board of Trustees as a student member for a term beginning March 1, 2024 and ending Feb. 28, 2026.

- Lisa A. Peterson of Worthington (Franklin County) to the Miami University Board of Trustees for a term beginning March 1, 2024 and ending Feb. 28, 2033.

- William C. Elliott of Worthington (Franklin County) to the Ohio Higher Educational Facility Commission for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Jan. 1, 2030.

- Ilham El-Monier of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Oil and Gas Commission for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Oct. 14, 2028.

- James S. Aslanides of Coshocton (Coshocton County) to the Oil and Gas Commission for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Oct. 14, 2025.

- Roger L. Osborne of Fleming (Washington County) to the Reclamation Commission for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending June 28, 2025.

- Joshua J. Agin of Zanesville (Muskingum County) and Michael A. Sliva of Cadiz (Harrison County) reappointed to the Ohio Reclamation Forfeiture Fund Advisory Board for terms beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Jan. 10, 2028.

- Allison R. Cain of Belmont (Belmont County) and Brian D. Morley of Louisville (Stark County) reappointed to the Technical Advisory Council on Oil and Gas for terms beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Jan. 31, 2027.

- Joseph D. Snyder of Kent (Portage County) to the Self-Insuring Employers Evaluation Board for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Aug. 22, 2026.

- Sandra Drabik Collins of Toledo (Lucas County) to the State Employment Relations Board for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Oct. 6, 2026.

– Bruce E. Bailey of Westerville (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ethics Commission for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Jan. 1, 2030.

- Marcia R. Knox of Dayton (Montgomery County) to the Public Utilities Commission Nominating Council for a term beginning Jan. 22, 2024 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

- Gordon M. Gough of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the Industrial Commission Nominating Council for a term beginning Feb. 5, 2024 and ending Oct. 20, 2027.

- Jonathan F. Link of Delaware (Delaware County) to the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Sept. 24, 2028.

- Scott A. Pendleton of Cadiz (Harrison County) reappointed to the State Veterinary Medical Licensing Board for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Dec. 31, 2026.

- Ray A. Hephner of Walton Hills (Cuyahoga County) to the State Veterinary Medical Licensing Board for a term beginning Feb. 9, 2024 and ending Dec. 31, 2025.

GUNS

Republicans should work with Democrats to address the worsening problem of gun violence in Ohio, House Democrats and gun safety advocates said during the inaugural Gun Violence Prevention Summit (GVPS) at the Statehouse on Thursday. "There's not a day that goes by that we don't lose individuals in our communities and children to gun violence. There is now not a single place that is immune to this issue -- your neighborhood, your schools, our university campuses, nightclubs, concerts, churches, grocery stores, shopping centers, and yes, even a parade celebrating the Super Bowl champions, like we saw yesterday," House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus) said during her remarks. "We all know that gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and teenagers. Think about that -- children and teenagers are more likely now to die because of guns than they are to die of a car accident, or from a fall, or some disease. It's guns and gun violence. I think we can do better," she continued. Legislators announced the introduction of a number of related bill including one that would declare gun violence as a "public health crisis," one that would create the Ohio Task Force on Gun Violence, the "Keeping Our Survivors Safe Act," which would prohibit gun ownership by individuals convicted of a first-degree domestic violence misdemeanor charge, one to enact a "common-sense concealed carry" policy in Ohio and one to implement universal background checks for gun sales.

HANNAH NEWS RACES TO WATCH

The people of Clermont County will choose between 62nd House District incumbent Republican Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) and her challenger, Republican candidate Dillon Blevin, a U.S. Army veteran who is now owner of Cincy Decks and Outdoor Living. He is backed by Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio, Ohio Citizens PAC, and We the People Convention. Belvins says he will "restore what it means to be a representative," according to his campaign website. Schmidt, running for her third term as state representative, currently serves on the House Finance, House Civil Justice, House Criminal Justice and House Families and Aging committees, chairing the latter committee.

In the GOP primary race for Cuyahoga County's only Republican-leaning district, a former lawmaker, a city council member and a media producer are vying to succeed term-limited Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), who's running for the Senate. The candidates include former Rep. Mike Dovilla, who served in the House through 2016 and that year tried to succeed Patton when he was leaving the Senate for the House, a race now-Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) won. Also running is Gordon Short, an attorney and accountant who serves as Ward 4 councilman for the city of Strongsville. In addition, there's Anthony L. Alexander, who ran last cycle in the GOP primary for the 7th Congressional District. His congressional campaign materials describe him as a site supervisor in the developmental disabilities field and a multi-media host and producer. Patton has endorsed Short as his successor, as has Dolan, whom Patton is seeking to succeed. The mayor of Strongsville, where Short serves on council, also endorsed him, as did the mayor of Berea, where Dovilla lives. Short also has the nod from Cleveland.com's editorial board and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce PAC, among other supporters.

Three Democrats are vying for the party's nomination to run for the 6th District Senate seat being vacated by sitting Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), who is running for Ohio's 2nd Congressional seat. State Rep. Willis Blackshear (D-Dayton) of the 38th House District is running against Kettering councilwoman Jyl Hall and Dayton Public School Board member Jocelyn Rhynard in this newly redrawn district.

A youth pastor and a certified registered nurse anesthetist will face off in the Republican primary for the open 54th House District covering most of Huron County and parts of Lorain County. Current seat holder Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) is term-limited, and has thrown his support behind Kellie Deeter, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), nurse practitioner, and a local small business owner who owns Firelands Anesthesia in Norwalk and Firelands Medispa. She is facing Anthony Savage, a youth pastor who also owns a business in online retail.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

The Ohio Division of Emergency Medical Services (Ohio EMS) announced that non-sterile personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, masks, gowns and hand sanitizer, are being made available by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) as the "use by" date will expire in time. The PPE supplies were purchased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Package quantities include 875 non-sterile surgical masks and 200 N95 NIOSH-approved respirators. ODH can ship requested items to organizations which have a FedEx or UPS account, arrange for pick up at the ODH warehouse in Groveport or deliver orders of at least five PPE cases to facilities within 25 miles of the warehouse. Entities interested in requesting PPE should go to http://tinyurl.com/39ceab2n. Those with questions about this PPE offer or shipping options should contact the warehouse at RSS@odh.ohio.gov or 614-491-9013.

Ending health disparities and recognizing that largely will happen outside hospital walls were priorities expressed by Airica Steed in a City Club of Cleveland forum Friday close to the year anniversary of her taking over as CEO of MetroHealth System, Cuyahoga County's public safety-net hospital. Steed described herself as motivated by earlier experiences when she was not in a position of influence, and by the premature deaths of her own family members, including a sister. "She was refused a mammogram that I'm confident would have saved her life," she said. Steed succeeded Akram Boutros, who was fired following allegations of improper bonus payments.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Morakinyo A.O. Kuti is the 10th president of Central State University, the institution announced Friday. After a nationwide search, Central State decided to promote Kuti, the university's vice president for research and economic development and director of land-grant programs. "Kuti's appointment as the 10th president of Central State University marks a new era of research and innovation for the institution. With his extensive experience and track record of success, Kuti is well-equipped to lead the university in fulfilling its mission of providing quality education and opportunities to underrepresented students," Central State said.

The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Monday that it is now accepting applications from college students for the College Technology Internship Program, which provides work experience and pay starting at $15 per hour. Internships for this round can occur between May 1 and Oct. 31. Students can apply through Feb. 26. Intern experiences can include all areas of study, and tasks they have performed include development of social media platforms, mobile apps, websites and virtual reality technology, as well as implementing new software to modernize operations and improve cybersecurity. In 13 rounds of the program so far, 902 interns have been hired.

Ohio State University (OSU) Athletics Director Gene Smith fired men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann on Wednesday. Holtmann had four years remaining on his contract and will be owed $12.8 million from the university, according to OSU. "I want to express my appreciation toward Chris for the first-class program, and the well-respected program, he has run here at Ohio State," Smith said. "He and his wife, Lori, are wonderful people. I thank each of them for their seven years here in Columbus and I wish them well."

JUVENILE JUSTICE

The Controlling Board Monday approved a contract that will allow the Department of Youth Services (DYS) to expand a program providing CrossFit services to youth at DYS facilities. Anna Garver, chief fiscal officer at DYS, told the panel that DYS currently offers the program at Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correction Center, and the contract with Craving More LLC services would expand it to three facilities. In addition to the physical fitness program, Craving More also provides trauma informed trainers who provide holistic training for youth as they re-enter the community on parole. Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), who held the item, asked Garver if DYS offers any programs outside of CrossFit at the facilities. Garver said that they do have physical education programs at all of the facilities but DYS is always looking for new opportunities and programs to offer.

LABOR

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) re-election campaign announced Tuesday that it has signed a collective bargaining agreement with IBEW Local 1466 recognizing non-management campaign staff.

LIBRARIES

The City Club of Cleveland Wednesday hosted a discussion on "Can Libraries Be Everything to Everyone?" featuring Executive Director and CEO of the Cleveland Public Library Felton Thomas Jr., Executive Director of the Ohio Library Council Michelle Francis, Executive Director and Fiscal Officer of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library Jason Kucsma, and CEO of the Baltimore County Public Library and President of the Public Library Association Sonia Alcantara-Antoine, with Shanelle Whigham, senior vice president and national community engagement director at KeyBank, as moderator. The discussion centered on what libraries are currently doing to serve the communities around them, and the importance of the freedom to read.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Ohio's hunters checked 213,928 white-tailed deer during the 2023-24 deer hunting season that concluded Sunday, Feb. 4, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The final total represents all deer taken during archery, gun, muzzleloader, and youth seasons since Sept. 9, 2023. During the Ohio deer seasons hunters took an estimated 12 million pounds of venison. This is the second year in a row that Ohio's deer harvest has surpassed 200,000, and the 12th time overall -- all since 2002. This season's count was the highest in more than a decade with hunters checking 217,018 deer in 2012-13 season.

NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS

The OneOhio Recovery Foundation Board welcomed new leadership at its first meeting of the year Wednesday as former Chairman Larry Kidd stepped down to focus on his 2nd Congressional District race to replace the retiring U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati), making way for board Vice Chair Don Mason to serve as interim chairman until officer elections in May. The board also voted unanimously to approve a request for proposal (RFP) for its first round of grant funding. The RFP for $51,194,221 this calendar year will be released Monday, March 4, when state and local governments, nonprofits and for-profits in OneOhio's 19 regions may begin registration at its new online Grant Headquarters,www.oneohiofoundation.com/grants.

OHIO HISTORY

The Ohio Supreme Court had already cleared the way for the Ohio History Connection (OHC) to appropriate native earthworks in Licking County from a country club, but the matter is now back before justices as OHC prepares for a trial on how much Moundbuilders is owed for the eminent domain taking. In December 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that OHC could proceed with appropriation of Octagon Earthworks, which were subsequently recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), along with other Hopewell earthworks in Ohio. On Monday, the Court declined to grant a stay of lower court rulings that excluded evidence as part of the coming trial.

The solar eclipse will cast a large shadow over the U.S. on Monday, April 8, and much of Ohio will be left in that shadow, promising to draw spectators from places around the U.S. without such a prime geographic vantage point. Ohio hasn't seen the totality of a solar eclipse in over 200 years, and TourismOhio has launched a new tool to help guide the historic influx of eclipse watchers either already in Ohio or those visiting from elsewhere. Ohio cities from Lima to Toledo, then to Cleveland and Akron will be in the path of totality, and 55 Ohio counties will experience at least a partial eclipse. The website titled "Total Eclipse of the Heart of it All" guides visitors through eclipse-related activities in each county in the eclipse's path. The website can be found at http://tinyurl.com/4a2xrwbz.

PENSIONS

Brian Perera, former Ohio State University lobbyist and Ohio Senate budget director, is the new investment expert in a State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) board seat that is the subject of litigation. Gov. Mike DeWine's office announced Perera's appointment Friday. G. Brent Bishop, DeWine's prior appointee to the seat, resigned that post and one on the University of Toledo Board of Trustees, the governor's office confirmed. DeWine removed former board member Wade Steen and appointed Bishop last year, citing in part Steen's attendance record at meetings and concerns he appeared to be advocating for a specific investment firm. However, a magistrate in the 10th District Court of Appeals recently recommended Steen be reinstated, although judges of the court will ultimately decide what happens.

William Neville will stay on leave as executive director of STRS through mid-May, and the STRS board will hire someone to provide him "professional development" before further decisions about his future at the pension fund. Neville's attorney strongly criticized the leave extension. The board put Neville on leave in November in response to an anonymous letter alleging harassment and threats, and Attorney General Dave Yost hired outside attorneys to investigate the matter. The extension through Friday, May 17 puts Neville on the sidelines until after the upcoming election for the STRS board seat now held by its chair, Dale Price. The filing deadline for that election is Friday, Feb. 23. Votes will be due by Monday, May 6, and the new board term will commence in September 2024. The board has been divided on the direction of STRS, with litigation now playing out over another board seat previously held by Wade Steen.

PEOPLE

Samuel E. Gerhardstein, 68, of Venice, FL and formerly of Marysville, OH, died Monday, Feb. 12 following a stroke and a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. His career began with an internship in the Ohio Senate and later as legislative aide to Sen. Paul Gillmor. He later held roles at the Ohio Department of Administrative Services and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. He joined Columbia Gas/Nisource and served as director of governmental affairs from 1996-2015. He is survived by his wife and former Rep. Dorothy Pelanda of Venice, daughters, grandchildren and numerous relatives and friends.

The Ohio Manufacturers Association (OMA) Tuesday named Jessica Borza as managing director of workforce services. She replaces Sara Tracey, who left the organization in December. In addition, as part of the OMA Workforce Services leadership team restructuring, Beth Hahn was also promoted to senior director of workforce services. According to the organization, "This restructuring will enable OMA to continue leading workforce development across Ohio and bring the workforce services team to the next level."

POLITICS

According to new data from the personal finance website WalletHub, Ohio ranks 18th among the states with the highest political engagement among African Americans in 2024. The top three states with the highest political engagement among African Americans are Pennsylvania, Missouri and Maryland. The lowest three are Vermont, North Dakota and South Dakota. WalletHub scored each state using metrics such as Black voter turnout in the 2020 presidential election and in the 2022 midterm elections, Black voter registration in the 2020 presidential election and in the 2022 midterm election, and proportional representation of Black people in the House of Representatives. Also included in the data were responses from experts in political science.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Andy Wilson announced this week that $1 million will be made available for law enforcement and prosecutors throughout the state to investigate and prosecute crimes of sexual assault in Ohio. The funds will be awarded through the new Ohio Sexual Assault Investigations Grant Program. They can be used for drug-facilitated sexual assault toxicology testing, sexual assault kit (SAK) testing, expert testimony, SAK storage upgrades, transportation and shipping costs, sexual assault investigations training, specialized DNA analysis and other sexual assault investigation costs. This round of grants follows grants announced at the beginning of 2024 to agencies statewide supporting victims of sexual assault, domestic and dating violence and stalking.

The Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of State Fire Marshal announced Tuesday that it is increasing the grants it is giving to local fire departments and first responders around the state to upgrade their radio communication systems. In total, 307 fire departments in 75 counties in Ohio were selected to receive the 2024 Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS) Grant. The $4 million in grants given in 2024 is an increase of $500,000 over 2023.

Gov. Mike DeWine wants to permanently rename Cleveland's "Dead Man's Curve," identified as one of 13 unlucky roadways for "end-of-queue" crashes where traffic has stopped and approaching cars risk serious rear-end collisions. DeWine joined Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks Thursday to announce a new warning system for the state's busiest urban centers identified by ODOT as "high-congestion, high-crash" areas. The administration is installing state-of-the-art camera technology in and around Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati that will detect major pile-ups and flag highway drivers two miles away with the message-board alert, "Slow Traffic Ahead: Watch for Stopped Traffic." Real-time updates also will be sent to the state OHGO and other traffic apps.

TAXATION

Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy parted company with the Ohio Supreme Court's 5-2 ruling Wednesday that the General Assembly had authority to expand cities' taxing authority beyond their territorial boundaries to collect revenue from Ohioans working from home during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The majority said while the Ohio Constitution's home rule amendment in Article XVIII, Sections 3 and 7 empowers municipalities to tax work performed within their borders, Section 13 gives the Legislature ultimate authority to limit those powers. Writing for the majority, Justice R. Patrick DeWine said uncodified language in Section 29 of coronavirus omnibus HB197 (Powell-Merrin) properly allowed employees' work from home to be "deemed to be a day performing personal services at the employee's principal place of work."

TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE

U.S. District Court Judge Algenon L. Marbley Monday granted a preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of Ohio's Social Media Parental Notification Act, saying it violates the First Amendment rights of minors and aspects of it are "troublingly vague." The law was passed and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine as part of biennial budget bill HB33 (Edwards) and would impose civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day for social media websites that do not obtain consent from parents or guardians of children under 16 who use such sites. It was set to take effect on Jan. 15, 2024, but NetChoice, an Internet trade association representing the social media websites, including Google, Meta, X, and Nextdoor, sued to block it.

Saying artificial intelligence (AI) technology "is here to stay," Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday that InnovateOhio and the AI Education Project (aiEDU) have launched an "AI toolkit" for K-12 school districts in the state. The resource is meant to help policymakers, administrators, IT staff, teachers and parents advance AI Literacy. It also promotes student privacy, data security, ethics and other factors. Husted said this toolkit, "Guidance and Resources to Advance AI Readiness in Ohio Schools," stemmed from a series of forums on AI that InnovateOhio hosted in 2023. The goal of the toolkit is to prepare all Ohio students for jobs in an increasingly AI-driven world and help develop policies and recommendations regarding "the proliferation of AI tools," according to Husted's office. It is available at https://innovateohio.gov/aitoolkit/ai-toolkit.

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE

Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks announced Tuesday that $106 million will be awarded to 383 transit projects throughout Ohio. The announcement came as the state celebrates "Ohio Loves Transit Week" this week, which runs through Saturday, Feb. 17. The funds are being awarded through seven separate grants programs offered by ODOT's Office of Transit. The grant programs focus on workforce mobility, senior citizen and special needs transportation, rural transit, and busing. According to ODOT and the governor's office, the funding will be used for a variety of purposes such as transit fleet expansion, replacement vehicles, preventive maintenance, facility upgrades, new equipment and technology, and operating assistance.

The Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) has announced roughly $2.5 million in competitive grants to train teen drivers from low-income Ohio families through the "Drive to Succeed" scholarship program. OTSO, a division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS), says local government agencies including police departments, sheriffs' offices, health departments, educational service centers (ESC), school districts, career technical schools and others can seek funding to provide driver training at "little to no cost."

TREASURER OF STATE

Treasurer Robert Sprague's office said Tuesday that two more financial institutions have signed up for Homebuyer Plus, a program created in the biennial budget that gives Ohioans more advantageous interest rates on savings toward the purchase of a home and also qualifies them for a tax deduction on those savings. Sprague's office said Home Loan Savings Bank and Richwood Banking Company have joined the program, bringing the total participating institutions to 10. The full list of participating institutions is at http://tinyurl.com/w4hrphp6.