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Week in review: June 20, 2021

Written on Jun 18, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service

AGING

In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Tuesday, June 15, the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Securities asked Ohioans to keep a watchful eye on older adults for signs of financial exploitation and to report suspicions to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Adult Protective Services in the county where the adult resides. According to the department, abuse is rising with the aging of Ohio's population, due in part to the amount of wealth older generations have accumulated throughout their careers through pensions and investments. This makes them more likely targets for financial fraud and scams.

FY22-23 BUDGET

The same criticism senators leveled at the House's school funding plan about substantial cost increases in the out years applies to the Senate's rival formula, economist Howard Fleeter wrote in an analysis commissioned by school management groups. Fleeter reviewed the Senate plan unveiled recently in its version of HB110 (Oelslager) for the Ohio Education Policy Institute, work commissioned by the Ohio School Boards Association, Buckeye Association of School Administrators and Ohio Association of School Business Officials. Fleeter dings the Senate plan for not using the most up-to-date data on property values, resident income and teacher salaries for calculating the formula. "Property value data is currently available through 2020 and income data through 2019. It is not clear why the Senate's FY22-23 funding proposal did not update to 2018, 2019 and 2020 property values and 2017, 2018 and 2019 income data," he wrote. The Senate plan is also in the temporary law section of the budget.

Telling the HB110 (Oelslager) Conference Committee that "the best-case scenario has been realized on almost all fronts," Office of Budget and Management Director Kim Murnieks updated the agency's FY22-23 revenue forecasts by almost $3 billion Thursday but cautioned lawmakers that the forecast includes one-time resources and is affected by boosts to spending that will not last indefinitely.

CITIES

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who is also a Democratic candidate for governor, was elected as the 79th president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors during a session of the conference's executive committee Friday. Whaley will succeed outgoing USCM President Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

The Mayors' Association of Ohio has announced Sidney Mayor Michael Barhorst will serve as the president of the association's executive committee in 2021. Village of Batavia Mayor John Thebout will serve as the first vice president of the executive committee, while Bellefontaine Mayor Ben Stahler will serve as the second vice president. St. Paris Mayor Brenda Cook will serve as secretary for the executive committee. The association said it will name a treasurer at a later date.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Gov. Mike DeWine announced that following President Joe Biden's signing federal legislation Thursday making Juneteenth – June 19 – a federal holiday, the state would also observe the holiday under the authority in the Ohio Revised Code which "defines state holidays as including 'any day appointed and recommended by the governor of this state or the president of the United States." Because June 19 falls on Saturday, state offices closed on Friday, June 18 to commemorate the day.

CORONAVIRUS

The Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Lottery announced Wednesday Suzanne Ward from Findlay in Hancock County won the fourth $1 million prize in Ohio's Vax-a-Million drawing. Sean Horning from Cincinnati in Hamilton County won the fourth student full-ride scholarship including four years of tuition, books, and room and board at an Ohio public university or college.

Ohio's coronavirus-related state of emergency was to be removed on Friday, June 18, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday. "The state of emergency in Ohio – as I explained when we went into the state of emergency – has very limited meaning. In some states it means a lot of different things, but in Ohio, it has a very narrow meaning. One of the things, for example, is in regard to procurement – in emergencies, you don't have to go through the normal process. And so, it's time for that to end," DeWine said during a press conference with the latest Vax-a-Million winners. The governor issued an executive order declaring the COVID-19 state of emergency in early March 2020.

EDUCATION

The House State and Local Government Committee Tuesday held the first hearings on two bills that would create new provisions for how certain "divisive concepts" are taught in schools and elsewhere. Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport) said his HB322 pertains only to K-12 education. Saying that classrooms are not "indoctrination centers," Jones explained his bill would prevent schools from teaching concepts such as "one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex"; and "an individual, by virtue of the individual's race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex."

The other bill presented Tuesday was HB327 (Grendell-Fowler-Arthur), a more wide-ranging bill pertaining to K-12 education, higher education, local government entities and state government entities. The provisions in the bill regarding education are essentially the same as those in Jones' bill, but HB327 also has language that would prohibit requiring teachings or training on "the concept that one race or sex is inherently superior or inferior to another race or sex" as a prerequisite for or to retain employment.

Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that the Ohio School Safety Center will award a total of $10 million in grants to fund security enhancements at K-12 public schools and institutions of higher education in Ohio. "It's important that we work proactively to ensure that our school buildings and grounds are as safe as possible to protect both students and staff," said DeWine in a statement announcing the grants. "Two new grant programs offered through the Ohio School Safety Center will help schools and universities pinpoint any weaknesses in their physical security and make needed improvements and upgrades." The 2021 Campus Safety Grant Program began accepting applications on Wednesday and will award $5 million to qualifying public colleges and universities for improvements to physical security on their campuses. The 2021 K-12 Safety Grant Program, administered by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, will award an additional $5 million to qualifying public K-12 schools for similar school safety expenses.

ELECTIONS 2021

Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who was the youngest mayor in Cleveland's history, announced this week he is running for his old position. The Plain Dealer reports that if Kucinich were to win in November, he would also be the oldest mayor in the city's history, taking the position at the age of 75.

ELECTIONS 2022

Though he has not officially announced whether he will run for the U.S. Senate in 2022, Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance appeared at a campaign event with Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Renacci this week in Newark.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

For the week ending June 12, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 15,866 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That total is slightly fewer than last week when the department reported 16,224 jobless claims.

ENERGY/UTILITIES

SB52's (Reineke-McColley) heavily revised controls over renewable energy in Ohio started their journey in the House Wednesday with some tough questions on the bill's true intent, the adequacy of current Ohio Power Siting Board practices versus expanded home rule, and the similarities and differences – depending on one's point of view – between solar and wind farms on the one hand and between renewables generally and natural gas infrastructure shielded from local control in HB201 (Stephens).

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The Senate passed sports gambling legalization legislation SB176 (Antani-Manning) by a vote of 30-2 on Wednesday, sending the bill over to the House for its consideration. The chamber also passed three measures related to higher education: SB187 (Antani), allowing college athletes to benefit financially from their name, image and likeness; SB126 (Kunze-Gavarone), an anti-hazing measure; and SB135 (Cirino), which includes various higher education and workforce reforms, as well as campus free speech provisions.

NATURAL RESOURCES

The newly renovated nature center at Cowan Lake State Park is open and ready to educate visitors this summer, according to ODNR. Highlights of the new exhibits, which were designed by Cincinnati-based Reverb Art & Design, include displays related to the wildlife found at Cowan Lake including the bald eagle and pollinators, as well as a wingspan mural.

WORKFORCE

JobsOhio leaders highlighted recent successes and the status of marketing efforts during Friday's Board of Directors meeting, while also noting that the economic development nonprofit will hold a stewardship and listening tour around the state this summer as part of its 10th anniversary this year. Board Chairman Bob Smith noted that several board members attended the hybrid meeting in person along with the executive team and said Ohio is seeing "significant progress" with vaccine efforts. That has helped drive the unemployment rate to nearly pre-pandemic levels, he added. "2021 will be memorable for all the right reasons."