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Week in Review: March 20, 2022

Written on Mar 18, 2022

FY23-24 CAPITAL REAPPROPRIATIONS/APPROPRIATIONS

Office of Budget and Management Director Kimberly Murnieks provided members of both the House and Senate finance committees with an overview of the proposed FY23-24 reappropriations bill, which totals $2.09 billion -- an amount that is higher than usual because the FY21-22 capital appropriations had been enacted six months later than is typical. She also noted that there were pandemic-related contract delays, supplier shortages and supply chain disruptions that "reduced the timeframe for those projects." The bill, HB597 (Oelslager), addresses the reauthorization of previously approved capital projects and does not include new spending.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday that Ohio's unemployment rate dropped to 4.3% in January, down from 4.5% in December 2021. Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 18,600 over the month, from a revised 5.4 million in December to 5.42 million in January. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in January was 246,000, down from 256,000 in December. The number of unemployed has decreased by 95,000 in the past 12 months from 341,000. The January unemployment rate for Ohio decreased from 6 percent in January 2021. The U.S. unemployment rate for January was 4%, up from 3.9% in December 2021, and down from 6.4% in January 2021.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday evening struck down the third General Assembly redistricting map by a vote of 4-3 and ordered the Ohio Redistricting Commission to draw a new map no later than Monday, March 28. The ruling puts a May 3 primary for General Assembly districts further in doubt. In a per curiam opinion, the Court said the plaintiffs in the case showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the latest plan violates Article XI Sections 6(A) and 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution, but refused to weigh in on an argument that the plan also violates Section 1(C). Additionally, the Court did not take additional steps that had been argued by the plaintiffs and Democrats, including declaring another submitted plan to the commission as constitutional. The majority opinion, joined by Justices Michael Donnelly, Jennifer Brunner and Melody Stewart and Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, said that there was "substantial and compelling evidence" showing that the main goal of the drafters of the latest plan "was to favor the Republican Party and disfavor the Democratic Party." They sided with plaintiffs in these as well as Democrats who argued that the newest plan contains a disproportionate number of toss-up districts that are labeled Democratic leaning with no Republican toss-up districts.

A day after the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the third Ohio General Assembly redistricting map, members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission said they were still reviewing the decision. One of the members, Gov. Mike DeWine, told reporters Thursday that he believes the three mapmakers used by the commission -- Republican staffers Ray DiRossi and Blake Springhetti and Democratic consultant Chris Glassburn -- should work together on a new plan, saying the Court's suggestion of hiring an independent consultant to help draw the map would be difficult to do in the short time frame given by the Ohio Supreme Court. "There are other options," DeWine said. "But the Supreme Court only gave us 10 days to do this. The idea that we're going to be able to go out and hire someone new and have them do this work, and do this work in 10 days, presents some very significant challenges." The governor suggested the commission pass a resolution instructing the three mapmakers to work together while following the Ohio Supreme Court decision and the Ohio Constitution. He said their work would be made accessible to any of the members of the commission. He said he is speaking to House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) about his suggestions. He said he's willing to take the lead after generally deferring to Cupp and Huffman previously.

Before the Supreme Court's invalidation of the third map iteration, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, in a filing in federal court made Wednesday, sought to answer Judge Algenon Marbley's question on whether the latest redistricting litigation could go without federal court intervention, saying the date to intervene has already passed. LaRose also told the court that he has reached a tentative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that allows the county boards of elections to send out military and overseas ballots later after the General Assembly adopted changes for this election only as a part of SB11 (Brenner). LaRose said the agreement is expected to be memorialized this week, and the DOJ has indicated that the changes in SB11 are sufficient enough that it would not seek court enforcement of federal deadlines against the state.

WORKERS' COMPENSATION

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation announced the expansion of the School Safety and Security Grant to help cover educational costs for improvements to heating, ventilation and air conditioning improvements. BWC is adding another $15,000 to individual awards for any qualifying entity to pay for HVAC inspections, assessments, maintenance and improvements and other, secondary devices to control the spread of airborne contaminants, including viruses.

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