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Week in Review: March 6, 2022

Written on Mar 4, 2022

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Chris Berry, president of nonprofit OhioX, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted discussed how the state's venture capital climate has improved for local startup companies in the past 10 years during a virtual forum. Husted said they have gone from $121 million in VC investments in 2013 to over $2 billion in 2021. A "State of Startups" report released at the forum said that was the third consecutive year in which Ohio companies received more than $1 billion in VC investment as well. Berry also told the audience that five regional venture development organizations around Ohio have helped tech-based companies to generate "a $10 billion impact and more than 10,500 jobs created [from 2016 to 2020]."

Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Wednesday the approval of tax credits for 13 mixed-use development projects expected to result in more than $2.1 billion in new payroll and spur over $1.4 billion in investments across the state. The projects will be located in Canton, Cleveland, Columbus, Delaware, Elyria, Hamilton, Mentor, Newark, Van Wert and Wooster. They are part of the first round of the Transformational Mixed-Used Development Program, created by 133-SB39 (Schuring). A second round will open in the "coming months." The Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) approved a total of $100 million in tax credits for the projects, which include construction or redevelopment of more than 5.8 million square feet of transformational space. Projects were recommended by the Ohio Department of Development (DOD), which administers the program.

Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Wednesday the approval of assistance for six projects expected to create 1,937 new jobs and retain 2,597 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 $104 million in new payroll and spur more than $117 million in investments across Ohio.

ELECTIONS 2022

Lawmakers used legislation meant to curtail state regulatory restrictions Wednesday to appropriate $9 million in assistance for local elections officials grappling with the chaos of Ohio's contentious and heavily litigated processes for drawing new General Assembly and congressional district lines. Democrats unsuccessfully sought to use the opportunity to delay the primary to make other election law changes.

The House attached an amendment moved by Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) to include the funding in SB9 (McColley-Roegner), which seeks to have state agencies reduce the load of regulatory restrictions within their administrative rules by 30 percent by the end of FY25. Secretary of State Frank LaRose praised the General Assembly for adding the funding to SB9.

Wasting little time following the Legislature's afternoon approval of additional funding for elections in SB9 (McColley-Roegner) and the morning approval of a new set of congressional district maps by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, Secretary of State Frank LaRose Wednesday night issued a directive to county boards of elections to include congressional candidates on the May 3 ballot. This directive was similar to the one he issued over the weekend regarding the primary election for members of the Ohio General Assembly. LaRose provided the county boards with the new congressional district data based on the map adopted that morning, along with instructions to take immediate action to reprogram their voter registration system by incorporating the updated congressional district boundaries and to follow updated procedures for filing and signature validity for congressional races. The directive also provides guidance for candidates who wish to file petitions to run for the U.S. House.

POLLS/STUDIES

Significant percentages of likely voters from both parties are still undecided in the upcoming primary elections for U.S. Senate and governor, according to a new poll from Emerson College and The Hill.

The survey shows 39% of Republican primary voters are undecided in the race for U.S. Senate, while 36% of likely GOP voters are undecided in the gubernatorial race. In the race to fill outgoing U.S. Sen. Rob Portman's (R-OH) seat, businessman Mike Gibbons leads the Republican primary with 22%, followed by former Treasurer of State Josh Mandel with 15 percent.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles) leads with 31%, while tech executive Traci Johnson has 8.6% and attorney/community organizer Morgan Harper gets 3.7%. LaShondra Tinsley, a former case manager with the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services who announced a run for U.S. Senate but didn't make the ballot, got 5.1% in the poll.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC), Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ohio (CAIR-Ohio) and Ohio Environmental Council (OEC), along with individual petitioners, filed a motion late Thursday, Feb. 24 to intervene in the federal lawsuit Gonidakis et al v. Ohio Redistricting Commission and Frank LaRose.

House Minority Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron), Democratic members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, previously filed a motion to intervene, as did the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute of Ohio. The motion to intervene by OOC, CAIR-Ohio and OEC argues that the lawsuit "endangers their interests in having fair maps drawn for Ohio voters, as their case in the Ohio Supreme Court is ongoing." The petitioners are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law and Reed Smith.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS/BROADBAND

BroadbandOhio released a new mapping resource Tuesday that "more accurately shows how many of the state's households are connected to high-speed Internet" and provides a better look at availability gaps. It can be found at https://broadband.ohio.gov/view-maps, and includes profiles for all 88 counties. BroadbandOhio previously released a map of existing service that includes counties and the legislative districts in place for 2012 to 2022. The map on availability gaps used 15 months of speedtest records to measure four different Internet speeds in Megabits per second (Mbps): under 10, under 25, under 50 and 50 to 100 or more. This supplements the other currently available data to provide more information to the public, state and federal officials, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other stakeholders.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council (UCMIC) Co-Chair Rep. Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) gave an overview of the latest draft of the final report during the council's meeting Wednesday, saying it now includes details on the "legislative response" through HB568 (Fraizer-Merrin) and a forthcoming Senate bill, along with results of investigations and state audits. UCMIC's meeting was the first since Nov. 4, and the previous draft report was approved in early August. Fraizer said they had since received a performance audit and another focusing on unemployment fraud from the auditor of state's office. An update from the P3 team set for the next UCMIC meeting may be included in the finalreport as well.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION

The DeWine administration Friday put its imprimatur on the 10% rate cut for private employers in the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) state insurance fund that was announced in January. Businesses and other nongovernmental workplaces will pay $106 million less in overall premiums in the fiscal year starting Friday, July 1. BWC's Board of Directors approved the average 10% cut, which will vary across rate classes, individual employers' claims history, and projected claims by industry. The administration said the average 10% decrease reflects declining injury claims and "relatively low" medical inflation costs.

WORKFORCE

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the latest application period for the TechCred program will run March 1-31. This is the 13th round for the program, which launched in October 2019. Further application periods will be bimonthly as follows: May 2-31, July 1-29, Sept. 1-30 and Nov. 1-30.

Results for the January round of TechCred applications were announced Thursday, with Husted saying 370 Ohio employers were approved for funding that will provide 4,434 tech-focused credentials. The 12th round saw 116 new employers approved for the first time. In total, 1,728 employers have been approved for funding to support 36,703 credentials.

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