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Week in Review: May 22, 2022

Written on May 20, 2022

The House approved legislation creating new regulations and an appeal process on the use of municipal tax liens for unpaid service charges. Reps. Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) and Thomas West (D-Canton), sponsors of HB422, said they were trying to address the problem of cities' levying tax liens on properties when renters failed to pay water, sewer or trash bills, pinning costs on the property owner. Fraizer said the bill would ensure the person responsible for the cost of services is clearly defined. The bill passed 64-20.

The Senate Wednesday passed legislation that allocates federal funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill for roads and bridge projects in the state, as well as other federal dollars for projects through other state agencies. The Senate Transportation Committee had earlier in the day amended HB338 (Hoops) to add a number of transportation-related provisions as part of an omnibus amendment. The bill originally addressed motorcycle safety laws, including allowing those seeking a motorcycle license to take other end-of-course evaluations that meet or exceed Motorcycle Oho standards. In addition to appropriating federal dollars, other provisions allow for qualified military veterans to obtain a CDL without a driving or written test as well as giving the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) the ability to bid more for contracts related to the Brent Spence Bridge project. The bill passed 30-1.


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, during a briefing Wednesday, discussed steps the department is taking to address shortages in infant formula nationwide, a matter that has the department "very concerned." ODH is doing all it can to help affected families, he said, including communicating with manufacturers who have assured them they are working to meet demand. Ohio's Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program has been working with federal agencies and manufacturers to mitigate the effects as well. Vanderhoff said the WIC program currently has waivers in place to add additional formula choice and size options for affected specialty formulas to provide greater options for families, and has sought more from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). They are working with individual families to help them find formula they need as well. Diluting formula or attempting to make it at home is dangerous, he said, and ODH recommends asking store staff about what is in stock and talking with health care providers.


In its ongoing look into career readiness programs and institutions of higher education around the state, the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee heard presentations from Carrie Phillips, a Microsoft education account executive, and Chris Mundell, vice president for institutional engagement at the Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD). Phillips described Microsoft's numerous education programs and initiatives created to help students and teachers gain digital skills. The Microsoft TEALS (Technology Education and Literacy in Schools) program, for example, has been supporting Northeast Ohio schools since 2017. The program is aimed at building "sustainable" computer science programs in high schools. Currently, 40 schools across Ohio are using TEALS, Phillips said. The classes are supported by volunteers from local industry such as Hyland Software, PNC Bank, Acumen Solutions and others. Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) asked if Ohio was doing enough to ensure students are graduating with coding and IT skills. Phillips reiterated Microsoft's commitment to building capacity for computer science education.


The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio's (COHHIO) Board of Directors on Monday announced housing and health care advocate Amy Riegel would become the organization's new leader starting Wednesday, June 1. Riegel will take over from founding Executive Director Bill Faith, who will be retiring this summer. Riegel most recently served as the senior director of housing for CareSource, a Medicaid managed care organization based in Dayton. Under her guidance, CareSource ramped up its efforts to address housing insecurity and improve the underlying conditions that affect the health and wellness of low-income Ohioans. Previously, Riegel helped oversee housing and homelessness policy and programs for the city of Dayton.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Marcia Fudge, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) and Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther Monday to discuss steps the Biden administration will take to increase affordable housing in the state and nationwide through 2027. A White House fact sheet said this plan starts with creation and preservation of hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units in the next three years, paired with other policies such as rental and down payment assistance. It includes rewarding changes to zoning and land-use policies; improving current forms of federal financing; ensuring that more government-owned homes go to owners who live in them rather than large institutional investors; and working with the private sector to finish building the most new homes in 2022 for any year since 2006. As part of the plan, President Joe Biden is continuing to urge Congress to pass investments in housing production and preservation, provide tax credits for building and rehabilitation of 125,000 homes for low and middle-income buyers and provide Housing Supply Fund financing to develop 500,000 units for low and moderate-income renters and homebuyers.


A unanimous Ohio Supreme Court made short work of the 15-year debate over traffic cameras Thursday by upholding the General Assembly's authority to withhold state funds from jurisdictions that deploy them. In an opinion totaling a scant 13 pages, the Court that has repeatedly foiled traffic camera controls said 133-HB62's (Oelslager) last-minute offsetting local government funds (LGF) by camera fines is just as constitutional as municipalities' home rule powers to assess them. The Court had shot down limits on traffic cameras in 2014 and 2017 after former Gov. Bob Taft vetoed a previous effort in 2008. The Legislature conceded local governments' right to install the cameras in 2019 but inserted a provision in the HB62 conference committee reducing LGF by a jurisdiction's annual fines and requiring municipalities to pre-pay all court costs for camera appeals.

The Biden administration appears to have opted for another quarterly extension of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) beyond mid-July. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has promised states 60 days' advance notice of the end of the PHE, which in April was extended to July 15; it did not provide such notice by Monday, May 16. The PHE brings Ohio a host of benefits and regulations, most notably about $100 million per month in enhanced federal matching funds for Medicaid -- a supplement that comes with a mandate that the state not remove anyone from the Medicaid programs except in very limited circumstances, regardless of their eligibility status. Other programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also are operating under special parameters and with additional benefits available during the PHE.

While states do have the authority to withdraw from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) public health emergency (PHE) at any time, doing so would likely result in "noise," "drama" and increased scrutiny from the federal government, Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran told lawmakers Thursday. "Nobody has ever done this before," Corcoran told members of the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC), responding to a question from Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), who asked if ODM could withdraw from the PHE on its own or if the General Assembly would need to act. "My assessment would be that like every other major decision that affects the Medicaid program, there would need to be a discussion among the leaders -- the governor, and the speaker and the president. ... I would view that as being the place to begin with any decision of this sort," Corcoran said. 


The second "GovTech Summit" was held Wednesday by OhioX, a nonprofit dedicated to growing the state economy through technology and innovation. A wide array of public and private officials were set to speak at the virtual event, including keynote remarks by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima). Rep. Mark Fraizer (R-Newark), chair of the House Technology and Innovation Committee, was due to speak on a "Building Ohio's Tech Hub" panel along with Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), ranking member of the committee; Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport), a committee member and chair of the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee; and former Ohio House Chief of Staff Mike Dittoe, now partner at High Bridge Consulting.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Wednesday members of Ohio's Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership, including industry, education and government entities. Ohio State University (OSU) was picked to develop the associated curriculum and the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) was previously named as the industry partner. The sector partnership is working to design and distribute curriculum and training programs, along with promoting career awareness, to meet industry workforce needs. It is estimated these programs will support filling 1,250 jobs for broadband access expansion and 32,000 jobs for 5G deployment in Ohio. Partnership members will have their first official meeting at OSU on Thursday, June 9.


Transportation officials in Ohio and Kentucky Monday said they are taking the next steps to improve the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor (BSBC) just a week before grant applications for the project are due to the federal government. Under the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden, states have until Monday, May 23 to apply for grant funding through the federal Multimodal Projects Discretionary Grant, which includes funding set aside for projects that are so large that traditional funding and grant mechanisms are not an option. On Monday, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) said it has requested proposals from consultants to support contract administration, public outreach, project management and control tasks necessary to manage the eventual design-build project. The selected consultant will be co-managed by a joint team within ODOT and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC).

The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) approved a $614,456 grant that will make improvements on the Midland Subdivision rail line by Indiana & Ohio Railway (IORY) in Cincinnati and Clinton County. ORDC said IORY is matching the grant at $614,456, for a total project investment of $1,228,912. The work consists of two related elements on the Midland Subdivision: installation of a crossover near Oakley Yard in Cincinnati, and improvements to Midland Yard in Clinton County.

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) will extend its Business Inclusion Program for an interim period of one year. Commissioners approved a resolution extending the program during OTIC's monthly meeting on Monday. OTIC Contracts Administration Director Aimee Lane said the move was necessary to allow for the continuation of the commission's diversity, equity and inclusion work with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). Later in the meeting, Rep. Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg) suggested that the OTIC should provide livestreaming video of its meetings, similar to how legislative committee meetings are broadcast on the Ohio Channel.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on May 20, 2022.  Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.

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