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Week in Review: Feb. 13, 2022

Written on Feb 11, 2022

FY22-23 BUDGET

Income taxes yielded nearly $200 million more than expected in January, helping tax collections beat forecasts by 10.1% for the month, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management. Tax collections for January reached $2.57 billion, $236 million more than the $2.34 billion expected. For FY22 so far, collections are up $816.4 million or 5.5%, reaching $15.8 billion.

CORONAVIRUS

While COVID-19 case numbers are improving, Vanderhoff said during a briefing Thursday that Ohioans should not let their guard down. He also talked about state plans for vaccination of children under 5 years old once CDC approval is granted. Vanderhoff opened with "good news" that case numbers have continued to decline statewide in "the last few weeks," with accelerated rates in some areas.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Peloton announced Tuesday that it was ending plans for its Wood County manufacturing facility, along with changes in executive leadership and elimination of around 2,800 positions worldwide as part of a re-evaluation of costs. The factory was first announced in May 2021, with Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted taking part in the August groundbreaking ceremony. It was expected to create 2,174 full-time jobs and $138 million in annual payroll, and Peloton would have received a 15-year job creation tax credit previously estimated at $49.4 million in value. A statement by JobsOhio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef said Peloton had not drawn performance-based incentives offered by the economic development entity or the state yet, as fiscal safeguards are in place.

ELECTIONS 2022

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters Wednesday that the state will likely need two primary dates this year due to an unsettled redistricting process. He indicated that the election on May 3 would include all the statewide officers, U.S. Senate, and the locals. Huffman added that, after talking to Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office and boards of elections, he is skeptical the primary for the General Assembly and congressional seats will be held on May 3 because it will take a few weeks once maps are completed to be able to upload the new districts to their systems. He also said there may need to be a new filing deadline for candidates if lines are moved from the previously adopted maps. It would take legislative action to set a second primary date.

However, a day after Huffman floated the idea of having two primaries, election officials sent a letter to "strongly encourage" the Legislature to reject that possibility, citing the "enormous" cost of two primaries. They also said it will be difficult and potentially impossible for elections officials to recruit poll workers, secure polling locations, test and prepare voting machines, and obtain ballots among supply chain issues for back-to-back elections. They noted they have already been warned about a possible paper and toner shortage. Finally, they said two primaries "will almost certainly cause voter confusion and low turnout, making the expense and difficulty of conducting two elections even more worrisome."

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

Despite economic watchers' expecting only small job gains or even a loss nationally due to the effect of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on the economy, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Friday that nonfarm payroll employment rose by 467,000 jobs in January. The national unemployment rate rose to 4.0%, a slight rise from December's 3.%. BLS said the number of unemployed persons was 6.5 million in January, little changed from the month before. The unemployment rate is down by 2.4 percentage points, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 3.7 million. In February 2020, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5%, and unemployed persons numbered 5.7 million.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Ohio Redistricting Commission will have to reconvene to try again to draw General Assembly maps after the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the second iteration of the commission's work and gave its members until Thursday, Feb. 17, to adopt a new plan. In this latest 4-3 ruling, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor again joined the Democrats in striking down the plans. The majority said the new maps adopted on Saturday, Jan. 22 violate Article XI, Sections 6(A) and 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution. It particularly highlighted the proportionality requirement of those sections, which calls for maps to align with the preferences of Ohio voters, generally agreed to be 54% supporting Republicans over the last decade and 46% supporting Democrats. The Court ordered the new General Assembly plan to be filed with the Ohio Secretary of State's office by Thursday, Feb. 17, and to file a copy with the Court by 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 18. The Court said it will retain jurisdiction to review the plan. After a plan is adopted, plaintiffs in the lawsuits will again have three days to file any objections to the new plan.

The redrawing of the congressional maps also now goes to the Ohio Redistricting Commission after the General Assembly determined it will not pass a new congressional map by the Sunday, Feb. 13 deadline imposed by the Ohio Supreme Court. House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) Tuesday confirmed that the Legislature didn't have the votes to pass a new map with an emergency clause before Sunday. The Senate has enough Republicans to approve an emergency clause, but House Republicans are one vote short without Democratic help. Cupp told Hannah News that it would be "a futile effort by the General Assembly" to try to pass a plan without enough votes to adopt an emergency clause. The redistricting commission, he noted, can pass a map that will take effect immediately. The House and Senate committees that had expected to hear the new congressional plans cancelled their Tuesday and Wednesday meetings or removed the bill from their agenda. The House also cancelled an if-needed Thursday session.

The Ohio Supreme Court late Friday denied a motion by Attorney General Dave Yost that would have converted to "amici" status responses by Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to objections by plaintiffs in three redistricting lawsuits against the latest General Assembly redistricting plans adopted by the commission. Yost had asked the Court to change the status of the responses from pro se into amici, arguing that only the Ohio Redistricting Commission should respond to the objections and not its individual members. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) objected to Yost's request, saying they are named respondents in the lawsuits and therefore had the right to respond to the latest filings in the case. On Friday, the Court denied Yost's motion. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said she would have denied Yost's request to intervene to file his motion, therefore making the issue moot.

TAXATION

The Ohio Department of Taxation encouraged those filing Ohio income tax returns to do so online, saying that processing paper forms and issuing refund claims can take up to three months.