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Week in Review: Nov. 7, 2021

Written on Nov 5, 2021

CITIES

Remote work, or work-from-home, will have "significant impacts" on the tax revenue of major Ohio cities as it continues after the pandemic, according to a report released by the Ohio Mayors Alliance. The report from financial management consultant PFM estimated that a third of the workforce could be remote, based on economic data in a cross section of 10 cities. The fiscal effects for the 10 major cities are projected to range from 6 to 17% in lost municipal income tax revenue from the general fund, with the report giving high, medium and low projections for each. Dayton could lose the most at 17%, followed by Fairfield, 15%; Elyria, 14%; and Cincinnati, Columbus and Kettering at 12%.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

The Columbus Metropolitan Club hosted a discussion Wednesday on the national small business "incubation rate," and how Ohio is succeeding. It also focused on the role of minority-owned companies and the support available to them. Panelists included Bill LaFayette, founder and owner of Regionomics and Hannah News contributor; Steve Fireman, president and general counsel of the Economic and Community Development Institute; and Cheryl Turnbull, senior director of the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship at Ohio State University's Corporate Engagement Office.

CORONAVIRUS

The U.S. Department of Labor will mandate businesses with more than 100 employees and federal contractors to require their staff either be vaccinated or undergo regular testing beginning Jan. 4, 2022, according to a Thursday announcement from the Biden administration. The planned DOL Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirement was first announced by President Joe Biden in September. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced his office was filing a lawsuit to block the vaccine rule for federal contractors, particularly sheriff's offices that contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold detainees in county jails. The Buckeye Institute announced it was filing a separate suit directly to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on behalf of Phillips Manufacturing & Tower Company of Shelby and Michigan-based Sixarp.

More than 41 Ohioans died from COVID each day in October, making it the sixth deadliest month in Ohio since the pandemic began, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Gov. Mike DeWine cited those numbers during a coronavirus update press conference Thursday as he quarantines after exposure to two staff members who tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

ELECTIONS

Attending a panel with election officials at the National Conference of State Legislatures' (NCSL) annual meeting in Tampa, FL, Wednesday, Senate President Matt Huffman (Ohio) said that elections officials and state policymakers should encourage voters to cast their ballots in-person. The session, titled "What Election Policymakers Wish Election Officials Knew -- and Vice Versa," featured Huffman, Nebraska State Sen. Adam Morfeld, Boone County, MO County Clerk Brianna Lennon, and Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee. It was moderated by Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor for Democracy Fund. Huffman said he knows that mail-in balloting needs to be an option for certain voters, especially the ones who may have trouble getting to the polls, but added that there are concerns such as chain-of-custody and signature verification with mail-in voting.

ELECTIONS 2021

A day before the 2021 General Election, Secretary of State Frank LaRose released the final early voting numbers, with 377,399 voters having cast their absentee ballot or voted early statewide. Of those, 172,886 cast their ballot early in-person. The secretary of state said the data, which includes all ballots received and processed through 2 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 1, was 17.8%, or 57,100 more than were cast at the same point in November 2019.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced late Thursday that he was putting the Franklin County Board of Elections on administrative oversight, saying the board failed to "effectively follow a remediation plan," which "led to e-pollbooks failing once again to work properly on Election Day." The move came after the secretary of state's office found a voter was allowed to cast a second ballot on Election Day Tuesday despite already having cast a ballot during early voting.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

For the week ending Oct. 30, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 7,375 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is higher than last week, when the state reported 7,044 traditional jobless claims

ENERGY

Ohio oil and gas production hit its lowest point since 2017 in the second quarter of 2021, with total barrels sliding nearly a third since 2020's high mark and natural gas falling more than 8% from the previous year. The Ohio Oil and Gas Association had expressed uncertainty about the Biden administration's energy policies going into the new year, as the president and Democratic Congress have pursued solar and wind energy expansion while rolling back fossil fuel production from traditional and "fracking" wells.

FEDERAL

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told reporters Tuesday he hopes to see the bipartisan infrastructure bill he helped craft pass the U.S. House of Representatives this week. The legislation passed the U.S. Senate 69-30 roughly three months ago but has stalled in the U.S. House as Democrats try to work on a separate budget reconciliation bill. Portman expressed his hope the House would vote on the infrastructure bill following Monday's comments from conservative Democrat U.S. Sen Joe Manchin (D-W.VA) that he's not yet ready to support the social spending bill but wants the U.S. House to immediately take up the infrastructure bill.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Senate Tuesday named its three members to a joint legislative committee on congressional redistricting, with the House expected to follow suit soon. The three named by the Senate are Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), who will act as co-chair; Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), the sponsor of congressional redistricting bill SB258; and Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron), the Senate Democratic designee to the Ohio Redistricting Commission and a co-sponsor of the constitutional amendment that changed the congressional redistricting process.

House and Senate Republicans introduced separate congressional redistricting proposals Wednesday, arguing they comply with the new constitutional requirements enacted by voters in 2018 and possibly create several competitive districts. Legislative Democrats criticized a lack of transparency in the process, saying they'd had no chance to review the maps ahead of time, and advocates who pushed for state and congressional redistrict reforms said the rollout failed to meet the spirit of the new processes that voters enshrined in the Ohio Constitution. Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) presented HB479 in the House Government Oversight Committee in the morning, while Sen. Robert McColley (R-Napoleon) testified on SB258 in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee in the afternoon. Both bills had had only placeholder text until acceptance of substitute versions in the hearings Wednesday. The Senate committee also took sponsor testimony on SB237 (Yuko-Sykes), a proposal Senate Democrats released weeks ago.

STATE GOVERNMENT

Gov. Mike DeWine announced the second round of grant funding in the Ohio Broadband, Utilities and Infrastructure for Local Development Success (Ohio BUILDS) program Tuesday, saying that 28 projects will receive nearly $44 million. This brings the funding to around $137 million -- out of an eventual $250 million -- and there are now funded projects benefitting all 88 counties. The first round had $93 million provided to 54 projects. Third round results will be announced at a later date. Tuesday's second round focused on infrastructure projects for drinking water and wastewater.

TAXATION

The Ohio Virtual Tax Academy sponsored by the Ohio Department of Taxation will be held Wednesday morning, Nov. 17. Targeted to business owners, tax professionals, and any other interested parties, this online event will include the latest Ohio tax news and provide insights from the frontline experts at ODT. The following three core tax topics will be covered during the course of the three-hour academy: legislative updates, personal and school district income tax updates and electronic channels.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

Questions on unemployment compensation fraud and responses to it continued for the Auditor of State's Office and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder at Thursday's Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council meeting. Chief Deputy Auditor Bob Hinkle testified on the audit of ODJFS focusing on fraud in the UC system. There are "serious concerns and issues" with that system, he said, including its outdated nature, the failure to act early to prevent fraud and lack of necessary controls. The federal government also relaxed verification requirements.

WORKFORCE

The current labor shortage was a key theme at the recent Ohio Manufacturers' Association Workforce Summit, which opened with comments from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. Ohio is adding jobs across all industry sectors faster than businesses can find people to fill them, he told attendees, and the "great shift" in workforce is due to a range of factors that includes retirements, more parents staying at home and others who have yet to return to work. The state has a "head start" on the problem through existing efforts to "engage the workforce of today and tomorrow" including in early education and ensuring more high school students graduate "career or college ready," Husted continued. Students can be prepared for both outcomes, he added as he also described Ohio's upskilling programs such as TechCred and IMAP.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported Friday that 291,049 positions were posted online from Aug. 14 to Sept. 13, as part of the department's regular labor market information.

This is an increase of 4,527 ads from the previous reporting period and 30,361 more than the same period in 2020, ODJFS noted. Further information on this and other periods is available at https://ohiolmi.com/home/JobPostings.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Development (DOD) Director Lydia Mihalik announced Monday the opening for the second Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP) application round. This second round will close at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30. Ohio offers reimbursement through IMAP and TechCred to support workforce credential education, and Husted told Hannah News that IMAP is oriented toward those who are currently under- or unemployed while TechCred is "employer-driven" for upskilling current workers. He also said there is a goal of 20,000 credentials a year between the two programs, though TechCred is more "widely incorporated" now.

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