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Week in Review: Oct. 31, 2021

Written on Oct 29, 2021

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

Declaring that it is "hard to be innovative or to come up with new products" in highly regulated industries, Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee Chair Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) testified on his latest "FinTech" proposal before his committee Tuesday. He said SB249 "creates a regulatory sandbox program for novel financial products and services in Ohio" -- that is, a "space" where industries such as the one he came out of, banking, can try out a new product or process for a limited time with a limited number of clients to see if it works.

CENSUS

Census Bureau data released in October highlights the scope of disruptions to education posed by the COVID-19 pandemic from preschool into adulthood, showing 2.9 million fewer Americans enrolled in school in 2020 compared to 2019.The data are from the Current Population Survey, a joint effort of the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics that focuses on the labor force. At the younger ages, nursery school enrollment fell by a quarter, but among working mothers of 3- to 4-year-olds, the drop was higher, 35%.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for five projects expected to create 679 new jobs and retain 549 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 $42 million in new payroll and spur more than $12 million in investments across Ohio.

ELECTIONS 2021

Early voting is underway in Ohio ahead of the Tuesday, Nov. 2 General Election, when voters in 23 Ohio counties will elect 47 judges for municipal court. Ohio judges serve six-year terms. Their terms are staggered, and odd-numbered years -- like 2021 -- have only municipal court judges on the ballot. To make informed choices for judicial candidates, Ohio voters can go to JudicialVotesCount.com, the state's nonpartisan, statewide judicial election resource, to learn more about judge candidates before casting their ballots in the general election.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

Ohio's unemployment rate stayed at 5.4% in September, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The unemployment rate was also 5.4% in August and July. Ohio's non-agricultural wage and salary employment increased 9,900 over the month, from a revised 5,346,000 in August to 5,355,900 in September, ODJFS said.

FEDERAL

The Internal Revenue Service is digesting a withering critique of its "comprehensive financial account information reporting regime" proposed in the Biden administration's FY22 revenue forecast and targeted by 20 Republican states' attorneys general including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. They say mandatory financial institution reporting on "all business and personal accounts" of $600 or more, detailed in the May 2021's 114-page General Explanations of the Administration's FY22 Revenue Proposals, is "wholly unacceptable" and a "Big Brother-mandate."

HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS

Ohio home sales are 6.1% higher so far this year than they were through the first three quarters of 2020, according to Ohio Realtors. Sales for the first nine months of 2021 reached 124,802, versus 117,642 for the same period in 2020. The average sales price of $239,608 represents a 13.9% increase from the $210,451 seen in the first three quarters of last year.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Testing for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Ohio's white-tailed deer population will continue during the 2021-22 hunting season, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer and other similar species, including mule deer, elk and moose. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no strong evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans. Two CWD-positive wild deer were confirmed during the 2020-21 hunting season in Wyandot County. A disease surveillance area has been established in response to the confirmed cases, and intensive monitoring will continue for at least three years in Wyandot County and portions of Hardin and Marion counties, according to ODNR.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

Filings in three lawsuits challenging new General Assembly maps showed the legislative members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission blaming the other side for the failure of the commission to reach a compromise on those maps. The maps were passed along party lines by the commission in September and will only last four years if they stand. A number of groups have filed three separate lawsuits in the Ohio Supreme Court arguing the commission did not meet constitutional requirements for drawing the maps. On Friday, the plaintiffs in those lawsuits filed a number of documents and evidence in the cases, including responses by members of the commission on questions from the plaintiffs about the process of drawing the maps.

The Senate this week introduced congressional redistricting placeholder legislation SB258 (McColley) and referred it to the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, in preparation of the General Assembly's taking over the responsibility for drawing the congressional districts after the Ohio Redistricting Commission failed to. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters he wanted to get the bill introduced and referred to committee this week, as there is no session next week.

Leaders of Ohio's redistricting reform efforts joined a national political analyst and a Republican strategist at Wednesday's Columbus Metropolitan Club forum to discuss potential outcomes of Ohio's congressional map drawing exercise and litigation over new Statehouse districts. Jen Miller of the League of Women Voters, Sam Gresham of Common Cause Ohio, Kyle Kondik of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and GOP strategist Terry Casey spoke on the topic during a discussion moderated by journalist Jessie Balmert of the Gannett Ohio newspaper network.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission held its only hearing on a new congressional map Thursday before it passes the task of drawing that map back to the General Assembly, leaving at least one member "frustrated" with the process. Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who as a lawmaker pushed for redistricting reform, told reporters after the hearing that he is disappointed and sees the commission punting its responsibility as a missed opportunity.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

For the week ending Oct. 23, ODJFS reported 7,044 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is lower than the previous week, when the state reported 7,554 traditional jobless claims. Ohioans filed 42,410 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 3,340 fewer than the previous week. The total number of traditional claims filed from Oct. 17 to Oct. 23 was 49,454.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION

The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors approved language expanding the COVID-19 exemption for employers' insurance risk factor to members of its deductible and "individual retrospective" rating programs. Medical formulary changes adopted Friday, moreover, will allow BWC claims reimbursement for antiretroviral drugs prescribed for diagnosed HIV or exposure to HIV. COVID-19 exemptions adopted by the board last June applied explicitly to BWC's individual and group employers and its group retrospective rating programs. Employer feedback has since prompted the board to make that exemption equally clear for individual retrospective and deductible state insurance plans.

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