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Week in Review: Jan. 16, 2022

Written on Jan 14, 2022

MARIJUANA/HEMP

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted an additional 29,918 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office on Thursday. Earlier this month, Secretary of State Frank LaRose informed the campaign that it was 13,062 valid signatures short of the 132,887 needed to transmit the initiated statute to the General Assembly for its consideration. The proposed law would legalize the use of marijuana by individuals age 21 and older.

FY22-23 BUDGET

Ohio collected nearly a quarter billion dollars more in tax revenue than expected in December, setting records for income tax withholding and non-auto sales tax collections, according to preliminary data from the Office of Budget and Management. "Overall, this is just another indicator that we're going in the right direction," OBM Director Kim Murnieks told Hannah News in a phone interview. Total tax receipts reached $2.29 billion in December, $243.6 million or 11.9% higher than expected. Year-to-date collections of $13.21 billion are $580.3 million or 4.6% above projections. Sales tax collections were $90.7 million or 8.4 percent above estimate; the non-auto sales tax made up the bulk of the overage, bringing in $80.6 million or 8.5% more than expected. Auto sales tax collections were up $10.1 million or 7.8% versus estimates. Year-to-date collections are up $212.1 million or 3.4% over estimates.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

Speaking at her group's "State of American Business" event on future competition, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark pledged the national organization will fight against over-regulation by the government while also urging elected leaders to work with business. Clark further discussed ways to respond to the workforce shortage and the need for more U.S. trade agreements with other countries. Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers told Hannah News that he thought Clark's comments were "on target" in regard to the current economy and that government should "be a helper and not a hindrance."

CORONAVIRUS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that, as of Saturday, Jan. 15, it will require insurers and group health plans to cover the cost of over-the-counter, at-home COVID tests. The administration says it will require coverage of eight tests per covered individual per month, meaning, for example, a family of four could get 32 tests covered in a month. HHS said there's no limit on the number of tests that are covered if ordered or administered by a health care provider following an individualized clinical assessment.

ECONOMY

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported Thursday it received 17,469 initial unemployment claims last week, Jan. 2-8, nearly double the 9,199 new claims from Dec. 5-11. (See The Hannah Report, 12/16/21.) The eight-week average is now 10,534. ODJFS initial claim numbers rose slightly to 9,337 from Dec. 12-18, then 11,955 for Dec. 19-25 and 12,349 across Dec. 26-Jan. 1. Continued claims have also risen to 57,157 for Jan. 2-8, up from 40,127 from Dec. 5-11. The intervening periods include 42,310 for Dec. 12-18, 42,654 for Dec. 19-25 and 48,846 for Dec. 26-Jan. 1. National figures from the U.S. Department of Labor showed 230,000 initial claims last week, up 23,000 from the week before, compared to a four-week average of 210,750.

ELECTIONS 2022

Rep. Craig Reidel (R-Defiance) announced Monday that he is running for the 9th Congressional District, which under redrawn lines includes Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams and Wood counties. The incumbent is U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo).

Former state legislator Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown) announced on social media he is running for the Ohio Senate. He will be seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem), who is running for reelection.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that nonfarm payroll employment rose by 199,000 jobs nationally in December while the national unemployment rate declined to 3.9%. One of the largest factors in the drop in the unemployment rate was a decline of 483,000 unemployed persons nationally last month, with the number of unemployed persons now at 6.3 million. As the nation has recovered from the pandemic, the national rate has dropped by 2.8 percentage points in the last 12 months, while the number of unemployed persons is down by 4.5 million over the last year.

GAMING/GAMBLING

Revenue at Ohio's four casinos rebounded 64% in 2021 after the pandemic took a toll on earnings in 2020, according to recent numbers reported to the Ohio Casino Control Commission. In total, the casinos earned $983.7 million in 2021, up from $643.4 million in 2020. The four casinos earned nearly $84.6 million in December, an increase from November's $78.1 million and more than the nearly $59.9 million earned in December 2020.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

House Democrats Wednesday evening backed Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) to be the next House minority leader, succeeding Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), who resigned at the end of last year. Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton), Russo's top rival for leader, will serve as assistant minority leader. Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) is the new minority whip, while Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) will continue as assistant minority whip.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday struck down the new General Assembly maps adopted along party-lines by the Ohio Redistricting Commission and gave the commission 10 days to come up with a new plan. The 4-3 decision saw Republican Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor join with the Democrats on the Court in declaring the new Ohio House and Senate maps invalid based on a violation of Article XI, Section 6(A) and 6(B), which state that the commission "shall attempt" to draw maps that correspond with the voting preferences of Ohio voters over the last 10 years. The 146-page decision included two concurring opinions and two dissenting opinions that further debated what "shall attempt" means, and whether the Court itself had jurisdiction to decide the constitutionality of a four-year map adopted by a simple majority of the commission.

Further, two justices -- O'Connor and Justice Jennifer Brunner -- suggested Ohio voters may want to take another stab at reforms based on the results of the latest round of redistricting. The majority opinion, authored by Justice Melody Stewart, and Brunner's concurring opinion, also took issue with how the process played out.

A federal judge Wednesday paused action on a federal lawsuit challenging new congressional districts created as a part of SB258 (McColley), deferring to the Ohio Supreme Court which is hearing two separate lawsuits challenging SB258. The lawsuit was filed last month by Rev. Kenneth L. Simon and Helen Youngblood, both of Youngstown, who argued that the new map resulting in their having less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and elect representatives of their choice. U.S. District Court Judge John R. Adams of the Northern District of Ohio Eastern Division, said pausing the case for 60 days while the Ohio Supreme Court considers its challenges would ensure "the efficient use of judicial resources." He said the Ohio Supreme Court could invalidate the congressional map and render the federal lawsuit moot -- a position which turned out to be correct when on Friday, Jan. 14, the Ohio Supreme Court also struck down the recently approved congressional map in SB258 (McColley) on a 4-3 vote.

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