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Week in Review: Oct. 24, 2021

Written on Oct 22, 2021

ECONOMY

A new survey of Ohio's academic economists shows that not a single respondent thought coal subsidies would improve the state economy. The survey published by Scioto Analysis found that of the 22 economists who responded, 21 disagreed that "subsidies for coal plants paid for through state-mandated rate increases such as those in [133-HB6] have economic benefits that outweigh their costs" with 13 disagreeing strongly. The remaining economist was uncertain about the effect of such subsidies. Among those who disagreed, the problem of the negative external cost of coal pollution was raised in comments multiple times.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

The Ohio Manufacturers' Association will hold its annual Workforce Summit in two virtual half-day sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 27 and 28. The year's theme is "Attracting the 21st Century Manufacturing Workforce," and OMA called the event Ohio's "most recognized gathering of manufacturers and their workforce suppliers and partners."

CORONAVIRUS

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration late Wednesday took action to expand the use of a booster dose for COVID-19 vaccines in eligible populations. According to a release from the agency, it has amended its emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 vaccines to allow for the use of a single booster dose as follows:

* The use of a single booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at least six months after completion of the primary series to individuals

- 65 years of age and older.

- 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe COVID-19.

- 18 through 64 years of age with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

* The use of a single booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at least two months after completion of the single-dose primary regimen to individuals 18 years of age and older.

* The use of each of the available COVID-19 vaccines as a "mix and match" booster dose in eligible individuals following completion of primary vaccination with a different available COVID-19 vaccine.

* To clarify that a single booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine may be administered at least six months after completion of the primary series to individuals 18 through 64 years of age with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

Saying he likely watches the numbers as closely as anyone in the state, Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Thursday that around 6,000 to 7,000 Ohioans are receiving their first vaccination each day, with the rate of booster doses much higher than that. DeWine continued that he would like that number to be higher but said there is a shrinking number of unvaccinated people who could receive a first dose. Of those age 12 and up, 64.25 percent have started vaccination and 60 percent have completed it, under Ohio Department of Health (ODH) definitions. ODH also reported 432,383 Ohioans have received an additional dose, including 15,105 in the last 24 hours.

ELECTIONS

The Board of Professional Conduct announced judicial campaign conduct seminars for 2022 candidates Tuesday. The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct requires incumbent judges and other candidates to attend a two-hour seminar on campaign practices, finance and ethics. Judicial candidates must complete the required course from one year prior to 60 days after they are certified to appear on the ballot. The seminar features presentations by Board of Professional Conduct staff and the Ohio Secretary of State's Office along with a question-and-answer segment.

ELECTIONS 2022

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on Monday endorsed Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley in the race for Ohio governor. Brown called Whaley "a fighter for all of Ohio" and lauded her leadership through tough times.

ENERGY

The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) approved another round of solar projects Thursday, giving a green light to Clearview Solar I in Champaign County and Ross County Solar, LLC.

ENVIRONMENT

Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson announced Friday that $3.7 million in H2Ohio grants will go to several local communities to help improve drinking water quality and to repair or replace aging water and wastewater infrastructure.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Members of the Capital Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) on Thursday unanimously approved a capital budget request of nearly $20.2 million for FY23-24. That is the largest capital request since the Ohio Statehouse renovation, which took place from 1990 to 1996, CSRAB Executive Director Laura Battocletti told Hannah News. The proposal seeks to spend more than $6.4 million to replace mechanical equipment such as the air handling unit, controls, exhaust/ventilation fans, piping supports/sump and air quality control retrofit; nearly $4.6 million on electrical upgrades such as repairing or replacing transformers, secondary power lines and panels; $4 million on repairs and renovations to the elevators; and $2 million on security improvements to the building.

A lack of certainty is one of the dominant issues corporate executives face in regard to government, Ohio Business Roundtable President and CEO Pat Tiberi told the legislative Business First Caucus Tuesday.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Ring-necked pheasants will be released at wildlife areas and other public hunting locations during Ohio's youth hunting season on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 23-24, according to ODNR Division of Wildlife. Pheasant releases will continue into late October and November on the following dates:

- Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 30-31 (second youth weekend).

- Friday, Nov. 5 (opening day).

- Saturday, Nov. 13.

- Thursday, Nov. 25 (Thanksgiving Day).

Ohio's 2021 white-tailed deer archery hunting season is off to a decent start with 16,095 deer harvested through Sunday, Oct. 17, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The average harvest total for the same date during the past three years is 20,112 deer. Deer archery season began on Saturday, Sept. 25 and is open until Sunday, Feb.6, 2022. Ohio's top 10 counties for deer harvested during the first 23 days of the 2021-22 deer season include the following: Coshocton (643 deer taken), Trumbull (535), Tuscarawas (529), Ashtabula (522), Holmes (489), Licking (466), Knox (411), Guernsey (403), Muskingum (372) and Richland (328).

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday that the state will accept Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership grant applications starting Monday, Oct. 25 through Friday, Dec. 17, with the award announced in January. The grant is open to Ohio colleges and universities that identify a nonprofit telecommunications industry partner to lead the effort, according to his office. This follows the unveiling of a "Strengthening Ohio's Broadband and 5G Workforce" strategy in September. Speaking at Youngstown State University (YSU), Husted said the DeWine administration is working to expand broadband access around Ohio but needs a trained workforce to build that infrastructure.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

For the week ending Oct. 16, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 7,554 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is lower than last week, when the state reported 9,851 traditional jobless claims. The eight-week average is 10,725, according to ODJFS. Ohioans filed 45,750 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 4,983 fewer than the previous week. The total number of traditional claims filed from Oct. 10 to Oct. 16 was 53,304.

UTILITIES

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio suffered another defeat when the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously rejected its "barebones" certification of FirstEnergy Advisors as a violation of commissioners' basic statutory duty. It said PUCO's green light to the electric marketer had ignored the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel's valid objections to the commission's failure to examine FirstEnergy rule compliance and "corporation separation" from the competitive retail electric service. The settlement agreement signed by PALMCo Energy Ohio, PALMCo Power Ohio, PUCO staff, and the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel and adopted 5-0 by commissioners also requires the retail marketer to donate all remaining cash and assets from its Ohio operations and all deposits and securities returned by the state's electric distribution utilities to a charity of OCC's choosing.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation announced Thursday that it has begun sending dividend checks to 3,000 newly eligible employers to ease the impact of COVID-19 on Ohio's business community and economy. In September, the BWC Board of Directors approved the expansion of the agency's December dividend to approximately 3,000 additional employers who did not originally meet eligibility requirements. BWC began mailing checks on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. At DeWine's request, BWC's board has authorized more than $9.2 billion in dividends to Ohio employers since 2019.