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Week in Review: April 10, 2022

Written on Apr 8, 2022

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The nation added 431,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in March as the national unemployment rate fell 0.2% to 3.6%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Friday. BLS said the number of unemployed persons decreased by 318,000 over the month to 6.0 million. Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers decreased by 191,000 to 1.4 million in March and is little different from its February 2020 level of 1.3 million. The number of persons on temporary layoff was little changed over the month at 787,000 and has essentially returned to its February 2020 level. The number of job leavers -- that is, unemployed persons who quit or voluntarily left their previous job and began looking for new employment -- fell by 176,000 to 787,000 in March. In March, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) decreased by 74,000 to 1.4 million. BLS said this measure is 307,000 higher than in February 2020. The long-term unemployed accounted for 23.9% of all unemployed persons in March.

FY23-24 CAPITAL REAPPROPRIATIONS

Gov. Mike DeWine's office announced Friday he signed the capital reappropriations bill, HB597 (Oelslager), which reauthorizes projects from prior capital budgets and needed to be enacted by Friday in order for the funding to be available in the new fiscal year to avoid project disruptions.

FY22-23 BUDGET

The state notched another month of strong tax collections in March, taking in almost $324 million more than projected, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Tax collections through the first three quarters of FY22 are now running $1.4 billion or 7.7% over estimates, reaching $19.58 billion versus projections of $18.17 billion.

CENSUS

The U.S. Census Bureau and National Archives released Friday records from the 1950 Census, as 2022 marks the end of the 72-year window in which decennial census records remain confidential. The records are available at https://1950census.archives.gov/. "Since 1790, census data have painted a vivid, vibrant portrait of America. While the decennial census is constitutionally used to determine congressional apportionment to states, the completed forms can give us a unique peek into our nation's past, to the delight of historians, genealogists, and to all of us, the public," said Robert Santos, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, in a video message about the release.

ELECTIONS 2022

Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a letter to legislative leaders and Gov. Mike DeWine saying that a federal court has set in motion a dual primary for the state, since the General Assembly took no action by Friday, April 1 to move the primary date. LaRose said the state will have a bifurcated primary, with election for statewide, congressional, and local offices on May 3, while conducting a separate primary election for House and Senate races and political party central committee seats most likely on Tuesday, Aug. 2. LaRose instructed the 88 county boards of elections to begin sending ballots to military and overseas voters beginning on Saturday, April 2. With this directive, he said the Tuesday, May 3 primary election was officially underway.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose cast his primary ballot Tuesday, April 5, the first day of early voting for the May 3 contest. Speaking to reporters afterwards, he said he hopes lawmakers will act "expeditiously" to establish a second primary election date, preferably in August, for state legislative and political party central committee races, as well as secure funding for such an election. However, the General Assembly's long-term calendar shows both the House and Senate taking a spring break after session on April 6, not returning until after the May 3 primary. Meanwhile, federal judges considering whether to intervene in Ohio's redistricting and primary election saga have indicated they might act if matters aren't settled by Wednesday, April 20. After the Wednesday House session, Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) told reporters that his plan for the General Assembly primary election is to allow the three-judge federal panel to decide when Ohioans will vote for the offices of state representative, state senator and member of state central committees. LaRose said it costs about $20 million to $25 million to run an election.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission said in filings Monday that they acted in good faith to try to comply with the Ohio Supreme Court's orders to draw a new General Assembly plan, but time simply ran out for work to be completed on a plan being drafted by independent mapmakers hired by the commission. Democrats, however, accused their counterparts of "hijacking" the process and introducing an unconstitutional plan at the last minute. Members of the commission Monday filed their responses in three lawsuits challenging General Assembly plans drawn by the commission. Those filings were made in response to motions asking the Ohio Supreme Court to hold members of the commission in contempt for passing what the plaintiffs said was another unconstitutional map, and the objections filed Friday to the fourth plan passed by the commission one week ago.

Republicans who filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to force implementation of a General Assembly redistricting plan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose filed separate briefs with that court this week asking for it to order the implementation of the most recent plan adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, even if the Ohio Supreme Court strikes down that plan. The three-judge panel has set Wednesday, April 20, as a deadline for the state to sort out its redistricting issues with Ohio General Assembly districts before it will act but it will now have to order a new primary date for Ohio voters to cast ballots for Ohio House and Senate candidates and state political party executive committee seats after the General Assembly ended its work this week without setting a date. Various parties to the federal lawsuit filed briefs with the court this week arguing for and against the options it is considering. The one agreement the parties settled on is that a second primary date should be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) said Tuesday that he is planning to introduce legislation that would take the funds needed to pay for a second primary election out of the Ohio Supreme Court's budget. The need for a second primary is due to unsettled redistricting maps for the Ohio House and Senate. The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected three plans adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission and is considering a fourth. Secretary of State Frank LaRose ordered county boards of elections to remove General Assembly races as well as state central committee races for the state political parties from the May 3 primary ballot in response.

TAXATION

Schools and local governments will only be able to challenge property valuations for tax purposes if the difference between the sale price and county auditor's valuation exceeds 10% and $500,000, under legislation headed to Gov. Mike DeWine's desk. The House and Senate Wednesday both adopted the version of HB126 (Merrin) hammered out in a conference committee earlier in the day. The Senate approved it on a 24-8 vote. The conference report was approved on the House floor by a vote of 59-35.

Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), the bill sponsor and conference committee chair, has sought for multiple sessions to enact restrictions on the ability of political subdivisions to challenge valuations and to enter private-pay agreements where property owners agree to make payments in order to settle the disputes. Merrin said in the conference committee hearing that the final version would provide protection against "arbitrary and unwarranted complaints" and reduce property owners' uncertainty about their tax expenses. He called private-pay agreements, which are banned in the bill, "special, unseemly cash payments that distort values and treat taxpayers differently."

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

The state's weekly number of initial traditional unemployment claims is continuing to increase, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). For the week ending April 2, ODJFS reported 17,662 jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. Last week, the department reported 16,156 jobless claims. The week before that, ODJFS reported 12,599 jobless claims. The eight-week average for traditional unemployment claims is 13,826, according to a news release from ODJFS. Ohioans filed 47,318 continued jobless claims last week, which is 361 fewer than the previous week. The eight-week average for continued jobless claims is 54,303.

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