Latest News

Week in Review: March 27, 2021

Written on Mar 25, 2022

TELECOMMUNICATIONS/BROADBAND

Gov. Mike DeWine announced three quarters of a billion dollars in broadband investments Friday to move over a third of the state into the 21st Century and provide locals and transplants new opportunities in rural and Appalachian Ohio. Joined by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, DeWine said grants of $232 million to 11 Internet service providers in 31 counties will be more than doubled by matching industry dollars and additional investments, bringing reliable, affordable broadband to nearly 100,000 households in underserved areas.

FY23-24 CAPITAL REAPPROPRIATIONS/APPROPRIATIONS

The capital reappropriations bill, HB597 (Oelslager), passed unanimously in the House after remarks by Reps. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) and Bride Sweeney (D-Cleveland). Oelslager discussed how reappropriations were constitutionally necessary for previously approved projects to continue and talked about the effects of the pandemic on the projects' schedule. The bill reflects that Ohio is in a "very strong fiscal position" and well below the Ohio Constitution's 5 percent debt service limitation.

CORONAVIRUS

Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday that Ohio and the U.S. appear to have put the most recent COVID-19 surge behind them, but the pandemic has a "real habit of throwing us curveballs" and so worldwide trends need to be monitored. As an example, he discussed the Omicron variant's surge in Europe, largely driven by the subvariant BA.2. The two are related and hold similar severity, but BA.2 appears to be more contagious. Vanderhoff added that it is rare to see an infection of BA.2 after contracting the BA.1 subvariant that hit the U.S. first, which means natural immunity overlaps to the newer subvariant.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) spoke in favor of SB47 (Brenner-Peterson), calling it "business-friendly" and saying it would "modernize Ohio's overtime statute" to incorporate a common law doctrine laid out by the U.S. Supreme Court. This would provide clarity on what is subject to overtime pay and what is not. The bill was passed by a 56-37 vote, with Republican Reps. Scott Oelslager (North Canton), Nino Vitale (Urbana), Ron Ferguson (Wintersville), Diane Grendell (Chesterland) and Jennifer Gross (West Chester) joining Democrats in opposition.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling on state legislative districts drew a call from Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) for the removal of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. "It's time to impeach Maureen O'Connor now," he wrote on Twitter. Conservative activist Tom Zawistowski also sent out a message urging people to call lawmakers to encourage her impeachment. Other Ohio media, including the Columbus Dispatch and Ohio Capital Journal, reported further discussion among lawmakers on the topic. At a separate press conference Friday on broadband assistance, Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the calls to impeach O'Connor. "I think it's always dangerous, no matter how much we disagree with judges or Supreme Court justices," DeWine said of attempts to erode an independent judiciary. "Not a good idea."

Monday saw a flurry of activity on redistricting as the Ohio Redistricting Commission voted to retain two independent consultants to help draw new General Assembly maps, two of the commissioners asked the Ohio Supreme Court to delay the primary, and a new challenge was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court to challenge the newest congressional map. Monday evening's commission meeting saw Sykes put forward University of Florida professor Michael McDonald as their choice for mapmaker, while Cupp put forward Douglas Johnson of the National Demographics Corporation.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose late Wednesday issued a new directive ordering county boards of elections to remove candidates for the Oho House, Ohio Senate, and state central committees from the primary ballot, saying it is not possible to include those contests on the May 3 ballot in the wake of the Ohio Supreme Court's most recent decision striking down the third General Assembly plan adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. In his directive, LaRose also noted a separate federal lawsuit seeking to have the third redistricting plan to be used for the primary, but said as of Wednesday, the federal court has not made a decision. Likewise, the General Assembly has not changed the date of the election, he said. The directive orders the races to be removed from May 3 primary ballots, as well as from Uniformed Services and Overseas Citizens' (UOCAVA) ballots that are to be sent no later than Tuesday, April 5.

Outside mapmakers hired by the Ohio Redistricting Commission to assist the process of drawing a fourth round of Ohio General Assembly maps -- University of Florida Prof, Michael McDonald and Douglas Johnson of National Demographics Corporation -- made their first appearance before the panel Wednesday evening, with the commission approving guidance for those mapmakers to work under at that time. The commission did not have any questions for them, though they did answer questions as the commission went through the rules under which the mapmakers will work. Under the rules, the mapmakers will work in public view with the designated workspace located in Statehouse Hearing Room 116. The Ohio Channel will livestream the process whenever they are working in the room on three to four different cameras.

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