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Week in Review: Dec. 12, 2021

Written on Dec 10, 2021

HIGHER EDUCATION

Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) was joined by Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers and higher education leaders Monday in announcing new legislation meant to improve Ohio's ability to bring more out-of-state students to Ohio colleges and keep them in the workforce after graduation. The "Graduate and Retain Ohio's Workforce (GROW) Act" would create the following incentives: a 100 percent refundable state income tax credit for college graduates who remain in Ohio for up to three years; 100 scholarships worth $25,000 over four years to certain out-of-state students; a refundable credit to employers worth 30 percent of wages paid to students in internships, apprenticeships and co-ops; and an additional Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) for associate's degree graduates who wish to pursue a bachelor's degree.

FY22-23 BUDGET

As had been planned, the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday gutted HB169 (Cutrona-Swearingen) of its original content providing federal COVID relief dollars to bars, restaurants and hotels -- provisions which have already passed the General Assembly and been signed into law through SB108 (S. Huffman-Romanchuk) -- for language appropriating a total of $4.18 billion in federal COVID dollars for a multitude of purposes. Committee Chair Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) explained that HB169 would appropriate funds from three federal COVID-relief acts: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. He stressed that, as a result, all of the funds in HB169 are federal dollars. "There are no state dollars in this bill." The Senate and House went on to approve the bill, sending it to the governor for his signature by week's end. Appropriations in the bill include the following:

- $2.47 billion in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER), Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) and Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools (EANS) appropriations to K-12 school.

- $639 million in supplemental child care grants is included "to encourage the hiring and retention of staff to ensure working families have access to child care."

- $1.05 billion for health care employers to incentivize the hiring and retention of staff.

- $250 million for grants to law enforcement agencies to respond to violent crime or the pandemic.

- $91.1 million in federal funds for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to continue combatting the pandemic and other public health priorities.

Total General Revenue Fund tax receipts in November were $75.8 million (3.4%) higher than the budgeted estimate, according to preliminary data from the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. All tax categories exceeded their estimates, OBM said.

CORONAVIRUS

Business groups Tuesday testified in opposition to HB218 (Cutrona), saying they oppose any mandate that comes from the government that interferes with business decisions, whether it comes from the Biden administration or the Ohio Statehouse. Pat Tiberi, the former congressman who now leads the Ohio Business Roundtable, told the Senate General Government Budget Committee that Ohio has been an at-will employment state, and employee and employer have the liberty to decide whom to work for and whom to employ without government interference. He said government interference is why they also oppose a mandate from the Biden administration requiring vaccinations at companies with more than 100 employees, saying there is equal government interference on both sides of the issue.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

JobsOhio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef highlighted accomplishments of the private economic development entity over the past 10 years since it was created under 129-HB1 (Duffey) in an email to business leaders and stakeholders Thursday. Nauseef said that JobsOhio was unique nationally and perhaps globally, detailing its creation and the acquisition of Ohio's liquor enterprise through 2038 as a funding mechanism. Through 2020, there have been over 2,800 economic development projects, with 210,000 new jobs created and 590,000 jobs retained to bring $10 billion in new payroll and $35 billion in retained payroll, with $1.35 billion in annual state income tax revenue, the organization noted. JobsOhio also attracted 500 companies into the state and helped companies invest $64 billion in new capital assets.

Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for 10 projects expected to create 946 new jobs and retain 2,485 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 $50 million in new payroll and spur more than $296 million in investments across Ohio.

EDUCATION

Senators answered school district complaints against tax valuation changes in HB126 (Merrin) Tuesday by withdrawing the as-introduced version and substituting even stronger safeguards for property owners. The Senate Ways and Means Committee accepted an omnibus amendment rescinding the original bill and instead requiring school boards not only to adopt a resolution for counter-complaints but also to proffer evidence supporting higher valuations; banning school districts appeals from boards of revision (BOR) to the courts; and barring property owners and opposing school districts from adopting arms-length "private pay agreements" in which owners pay school officials not to file complaints or to dismiss them once filed.

"The amendment does not prohibit settlement agreements whereby parties agree upon a new valuation of a property and that valuation is reflected on the tax list," the Legislative Services Commission (LSC) said. The new version clarifies that parties, including political subdivisions, could file initial complaints only for property they own and would receive mandatory notice of counter-complaints. Amended HB126, finally, would take effect in tax year 2022 rather than 2021.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The nation added 210,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in November and the unemployment rate dropped by 0.4% to 4.2%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday, with job gains in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction and manufacturing. Jobs fell in retail trade. According to BLS, the number of unemployed persons fell by 542,000 to 6.9 million. Both measures are down considerably from their highs at the end of the February-April 2020 recession. However, they remain above pre-pandemic levels of 3.5% and 5.7 million, respectively, in February 2020.

For the week ending Dec. 4, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 9,302 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is higher than last week, when the state reported 7,519 traditional jobless claims.

GAMING/GAMBLING

The General Assembly is finally sending a sports gambling legalization bill to the governor. After months of negotiations and numerous delays, the HB29 (Wiggam-A. Miller) Conference Committee met Wednesday afternoon and unanimously approved a report on the bill after accepting an omnibus amendment that House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said included language from around 50 separate amendments. Shortly afterward, the Senate voted 31-1 to approve the report, while the House voted 72-12 to approve it. Gov. Mike DeWine has indicated that he will sign the bill. The Ohio Casino Control Commission is required to designate a universal start date no later than Jan. 1, 2023.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday heard oral arguments on three cases challenging the new General Assembly maps passed along partisan lines by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, with justices questioning attorneys about proportionality in the new maps and possible remedies should the maps be struck down by the Court. The case will likely come down to how the justices interpret Article XI, Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution, which includes a provision that any map that is adopted by the commission must reflect the political preferences of Ohio voters. Plaintiffs have argued that the maps violate the section because they give Republicans supermajorities in both the Ohio House and Senate while voters have supported Republican candidates statewide by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin. Attorneys for the commission, in addition to arguing that the provision is aspirational, said the maps that were adopted were the most constitutionally compliant of any offered, and that they are closer to the voter preferences than other plans. They also argued that because the other sections of the Ohio Constitution were strictly complied with, Section 6 does not need to be considered by the Court.

WORKFORCE

Results for the October round of TechCred applications were announced Wednesday, with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted saying 252 Ohio employers were approved for funding that will provide 2,997 tech-focused credentials. The 11th round saw 93 new employers approved for the first time, according to a release.

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