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Week in Review: Oct. 10, 2021

Written on Oct 8, 2021

TAXATION

Lawmakers continued efforts to lower and eliminate income taxes in the latest version of the budget, HB110 (Oelslager), but according to some experts, they deviated from how previous cuts were enacted as the top income tax bracket was eliminated, and the new top bracket rate dropped below 4%. When announcing the changes made to the conference committee version of HB110, the conferees noted that the bill would execute an across-the-board income tax cut at 3%. However, Howard Fleeter, an economist, long time tax consultant, and author of Hannah News' "On the Money," said he noticed the hit to revenues was much higher than the proposed 5% across-the-board tax cut passed by the Ohio Senate, which did not make sense if it was a straight 3% cut to all brackets. "I probably would not have noticed it if I wasn't so curious [about] how … this cost so much more money than what the Senate proposed," he said. Instead, he found that by getting rid of the top bracket, reducing the number of income brackets from five to four, and making the top marginal rate 3.99%, some earners will have nearly a 17% reduction as a result of changes in the budget.

FY22-23 BUDGET

Total General Revenue Fund tax receipts for September finished $94 million (4.5%) higher than the budgeted estimate, the Ohio Office of Budget and Management announced Wednesday.

CORONAVIRUS

Ohio Department of Health Director Bruce Vanderhoff announced Friday the state has doubled the prize money for the Ohio Vax-2-School program to a total of $2 million in scholarships. In addition, Vanderhoff said the state plans to expand the age group of eligible Ohioans to younger children. Entries opened Monday, Oct. 4 for Ohioans aged 12 to 25, online at www.ohiovax2school.com or by phone at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.

After pushing a bill establishing new exemptions for COVID vaccine mandates through committee in one hearing but scrubbing the planned floor vote last week, the House announced Monday two days' worth of hearings on HB435 in another committee. The House Commerce and Labor Committee held informal hearings on the bill Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday’s hearing was scheduled to last all day but ended before lunch, with the bulk of the time dedicated to questioning of Ross McGregor, a manufacturing company owner and former lawmaker who spoke against the bill on behalf of the Ohio Manufacturers' Association. At Thursday’s hearing, the bill faced criticism from all sides of the issue. Representatives of health care organizations and business groups argued that the legislation goes too far in restricting the ability of employers to require vaccines to ensure a safe workplace. Anti-vaccine activists said the bill doesn't go far enough to protect unvaccinated individuals. Trial lawyers derided HB435 for language that "would gift new immunity to negligent, harmful actors until June 2023."

Ohio is seeing "early indicators" that COVID-19 case numbers are peaking and may start to decline, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff told reporters Monday. Hospitalizations and deaths "should soon follow," he continued during the morning briefing.

Ohio reported Tuesday 5,533 COVID cases from the previous 24 hours, below the three-week average of 6,094. Meanwhile, hospitalizations of the past day hit 375, above the average of 262; intensive care unit admissions reached 27, compared to the average of 23. The twice-weekly death count, updated Tuesdays and Fridays, included 217 deaths. The daily average sits at 58.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for 12 projects expected to create 2,426 new jobs and retain 3,252 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $108 million in new payroll and spur more than $162 million in investments across Ohio.

Ohio military and federal installations generated $40 billion in gross regional product and 380,500 direct and indirect jobs in 2020, according to an economic analysis released by JobsOhio during the two-day Ohio Aerospace Day forum. At 6% of the state economy, this represents $69 billion in total activity. The Dayton region, home to installations including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, has $19.4 billion in total activity and 103,000 jobs. The analysis included a review of U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans' Affairs and National Aeronautics and Space Administration installations in the state. It was prepared by Matrix Design Group, and Matrix Senior Research Analyst Matt Schwalb detailed the methodology used for the analysis at the forum Tuesday.

Ohio remains second in aerospace manufacturing attractiveness, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) findings presented during the second day of Ohio's 2021 aerospace forum. The full report has not been publicly released yet, but Ohio was also second in 2020. PwC Global Aerospace and Defense Leader Scott Thompson explained the methodology during the forum, adding that Ohio was first in tax policy, third for both economy and industry, fourth in infrastructure, 17th in labor and 33rd in cost. Thompson added that business leaders are more accepting on the cost issue if states provide quality and accessibility, and that labor is one of the biggest challenges in the industry.

The Ohio Department of Development announced awards totaling more than $12 million as part of the Community Development Critical Infrastructure and Neighborhood Revitalization programs Monday. Both have around $6 million awarded, with 13 recipients in the critical infrastructure program and nine in the neighborhood revitalization program. The grants will benefit more than 35,000 Ohioans, DOD said.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

For the week ending Oct. 2, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 9,222 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is lower than last week, when the department reported 10,135 traditional jobless claims.

FEDERAL

Speaking during an event at a Nationwide Children's Hospital parking garage overlooking the I-70/I-71 split in Columbus, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Friday expressed optimism that President Joe Biden will be signing a $1 trillion infrastructure bill by the end of the month despite the U.S. House delaying a vote on the bill on Thursday.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

In addition to changes in membership of the House Health Committee announced in tandem with action on vaccine mandate exemption measure HB435 (Carfagna-Seitz), the House formalized a handful of other changes to committees' memberships last week, as follows:

Economic and Workforce Development: Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason) removed, Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) appointed.

Infrastructure and Rural Development: Reps. Don Jones (R-Freeport) and Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) removed, Reps. Kevin Miller (R-Newark) and Zeltwanger appointed.

Transportation and Public Safety: Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) removed, Miller appointed.

All Ohio high school students will soon be required to complete one-half unit of financial literacy to graduate, under legislation that is headed to the governor's desk. The Senate on Wednesday unanimously concurred with House amendments to SB1 (Wilson-McColley), sending the bill to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature. The bill applies to all public school students who enter ninth grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2022. Also passing Wednesday were SB217 (Schaffer), to align state law to FBI guidelines for criminal records checks; and HB291 (Callender-Troy), an omnibus road and bridge naming and license plate measure.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

The human services coalition Advocates for Ohio's Future Thursday provided several detailed and general proposals to use hundreds of millions of dollars in remaining federal COVID-19 relief funding, and also called on state leaders to bring their considerations for the funding's uses out in the open.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Princeton Gerrymandering Project this week released its grades for the Senate Democratic Caucus' proposed congressional redistricting plan introduced as SB237 (Yuko-Sykes), finding the map gives a slight advantage to Democrats. The map gets an overall grade from the group of "B," and a "B" for partisan fairness, which is better than average for the category, but bias still exits.

In a post grading the Senate Democratic congressional redistricting proposal SB237 (Yuko-Sykes), former legislator Jeff Jacobson of Renew Ohio said that Democrats are projecting when they accuse Republicans of trying to draw a map that only favors their candidates while doing the same. Jacobson graded the SB237 plan a "C-", saying it fails to meet constitutional requirements.

Plaintiffs in all three lawsuits filed against the Ohio Redistricting Commission over new legislative district maps adopted for the Ohio House and Senate asked the Ohio Supreme Court to compel the Republican members of the commission to comply with discovery requests, including depositions. The Republican members of the commission Wednesday responded to the motions, saying the motions are unreasonable and not necessary. The Supreme Court partially granted the request Thursday, allowing for discovery and for depositions from the Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, but setting parameters surrounding those depositions.

STATE GOVERNMENT

The Controlling Board Monday approved all of the items on its agenda without lawmakers holding any of those items. Items approved Monday included coronavirus relief funds for schools, as well as money for adoption and child care programs, special counsel work, and vaccine distribution efforts. Most of Monday's meeting was spent receiving an update on a collective bargaining agreement between the attorney general's office and the Fraternal Order of Police Bargaining Unit 46, which represents Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents.

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will provide Ohioans with valid credentials the ability to make one online order of a driver's license or ID card reprinting. This had previously only been an option in person at a deputy registrar location, and the new service could save an average of 500,000 visits per year. The reprint represents an exact copy of the last-issued credential, with no changes to personal information. It is not available for changes to a name, address or other identifier, though customers visiting the BMV can benefit from "Get In Line, Online" queuing.

TREASURER OF STATE

Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague proposed the "Ohio Gains" initiative, which he said puts "the state's balance sheet to work for Ohioans." He explained that "the proposal centers around three new investment reforms that will help bolster support for the state's agriculture community, health systems and institutions of higher education.”

This feature was provided by Hannah News Service and selected for you by OSCPA Government Relations staff.