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Week in Review: Aug. 7, 2022

Written on Aug 5, 2022

Attorney General Dave Yost joined all 50 state attorneys general Tuesday to announce the formation of a National Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force led by Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina. The move follows joint action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Yost this month against one of the nation's top robocallers. The Ohio attorney general said the bipartisan task force has a single goal: to end illegal robocalls. "Robocalls are worse than mosquitoes, pesky and annoying," Yost said in a statement. He said the task force has begun by issuing 20 civil investigative demands to 20 "gateway" providers and other entities allegedly responsible for most foreign robocall traffic.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina are leading the charge with the Federal Trade Commission FTC) to implement stronger safeguards against phone-related scams including "negative option" opt-outs, click-bait dialing, and business-to-business exemptions in a time of common-use phones for work and pleasure. Ohio Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro co-sponsored a letter to FTC Acting Secretary April Tabor this week signed by 37 other states' attorneys general and were joined by North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein in a second letter aimed at telemarketer recordkeeping.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Tuesday it will host five regional forums in Columbus, Parma, Oregon, Cincinnati and New Philadelphia to help small businesses earn tax credits through the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program. The WOTC offers incentives for companies to hire individuals "from targeted groups, including veterans, public assistance recipients, restored citizens, individuals with disabilities and others," according to ODJFS. The tax credits range from $2,400 to $9,600 depending on the group. ODJFS has certified over 100,000 WOTC applications since October 2021 and thousands of Ohio employers have received more than $240 million in tax credits. Attendance is free but space is limited; Email to register.

Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday announced that 1,183 schools across 81 counties will receive nearly $47 million in grant funding as part of the Ohio K-12 School Safety Grant Program. While kicking off the Ohio School Safety Summit at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, DeWine said the grants will match the requested amount by each school up to $50,000. Funding can be used to pay for security upgrades such as security cameras, public address systems, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems, and exterior lighting. The schools selected to receive funding each applied for but did not receive funds as part of the initial round of awards that were announced in May. For that round of grants, 98 schools received $4.8 million through funding in 133-SB310 (Dolan). The most recent capital budget bill, HB687(Oelslager), increased the school safety grant program to $100 million with the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds. The Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC), in partnership with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), will begin accepting applications in the coming weeks for the $53 million in funds remaining in the grant program.

The Republican State Central Committee candidate who sued to block party-switchers from casting ballots in the special August primary waited too long to file suit, claims only speculative injury and is wrong on the law, attorneys for Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Monday in legal filings. In the lawsuit filed in early July, Brian Ames argued the May and August primaries are in fact a single election and that voters should not be able to cast a ballot for a different party in August than they did in May. Ames was seeking a committee seat for the 28th Senate District. Ohio's primary was bifurcated because of the state's heavily litigated redistricting saga.

Ohioans have become accustomed to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's (D-OH) political ads for U.S. Senate touting his support for blue collar jobs and panning opponent J.D. Vance's "culture wars." However, the Republican said to look for a change this week in the launch of his own General Election ad campaign.

Vance acknowledged Ryan's head start at the Ohio State Fair Tuesday during media availability.

The re-election campaign of Gov. Mike DeWine now has nearly $9.5 million on-hand, after again raising more than double that of his Democratic challenger Nan Whaley in the most recent fundraising period. DeWine-Husted for Ohio reported raising $2.5 million during the period. Wednesday was the deadline for statewide candidates to submit July campaign finance reports to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office.

In the down-ticket races, Secretary of State Frank LaRose raised $282,684 during the period. His campaign has more than $2.2 million on-hand. The campaign of Democratic secretary of state candidate Chelsea Clark reported raising $19,998 over the period, and has $54,804 in cash on-hand. Attorney General Dave Yost's campaign reported raising $462,275 and has more than $2.78 million in cash on-hand. The campaign of Democratic attorney general candidate Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) reported raising $135,775 and has $265,526 in cash on-hand. Auditor of State Keith Faber's campaign reported raising $258,423 and has over $1.6 million in cash on-hand. The campaign of Democratic auditor of state candidate Taylor Sappington reported raising $43,238 and has $63,323 in cash on-hand. Treasurer of State Robert Sprague's campaign reported raising $202,643 and has $1.05 million in cash on-hand. The campaign of Democratic treasurer of state candidate Scott Schertzer reported raising $49,687 and has $170,975 in cash on-hand.

According to the secretary of state's website, a total of 631,944 ballots were counted for Tuesday's second primary election of the year -- this one for members of the General Assembly, state central committees and some local ballot issues. This is 7.93 percent of the total qualified voters, who number 7,973,819. Yet to be counted are 24,566 outstanding absentee ballots and 4,591 outstanding provisional ballots. This compares to a total of 1,659,377 votes cast in the state's first primary on May 3.

Political strategists for the four General Assembly caucuses highlighted candidates and races to watch Thursday at the Impact Ohio conference, analyzing legislative primary results and looking ahead to the fall. A universal message among the presenters was the peculiarity of this primary, pushed to August and separated from the May contest for statewide officeholders and judges because of the redistricting saga. "When you put a poll in the field it comes back 81 percent undecided. So we did not have the benefit of some of those guideposts we would normally have," said Stephen Caraway, director of the Ohio House Republican Alliance, the majority caucus' campaign arm. Jordan Hawkins, executive director of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, called it "the multiverse of madness of maps."

Republican and Democrat strategists considered the outcomes of the primaries and debated the effects of inflation, abortion rights and other factors at Thursday's Impact Ohio conference. Laura Arenschield, editorial strategies director at Werth PR and former Columbus Dispatch reporter, moderated the discussion between Republicans Scott Schweitzer of the Strategy Group and Democrat Joe Rettof of RT Advisors. Rettof was bullish on how the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion would motivate voters who favor Democrats to show up, pointing to a "resounding statement" on the topic from Kansas, where voters rejected a ballot issue to remove protections in the state constitution for abortion.

The Controlling Board approved all funding requests on its agenda Monday but entertained a raft of questions from newcomer Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), including several addressing missing criminal justice data at the Ohio Attorney General's Office. Lightbody asked how the attorney general could have built up a backlog of case dispositions for 53 percent of its files and worried Ohio was not securing critical background checks on firearm sales to violent criminals. AG staff said COVID-19 shutdowns had led to the case backlog, especially in Hamilton and Montgomery counties, which the office said a $1.6 million amended contract with Inquiries Screening will hopefully remedy. Lightbody, acknowledging her relative inexperience on the board, also asked about proposed AG funding for "Valid8" financial investigation software to combat Medicaid fraud, and about $585,000 sought by the Court of Claims for the wrongful imprisonment of Roger Dean Gillespie for sexual assault.

In a Wednesday letter to Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) urged the state to accelerate its response to the monkeypox virus. Vanderhoff recently declared the virus a "disease of significant public concern" for Ohio, according to the letter. "On the heels of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned many lessons on how a quick, proper and thorough public health response to an infectious disease outbreak can save lives," Antonio wrote to Vanderhoff. "In spite of this, we have not seen the Ohio Department of Health issue a strategic plan or conduct outreach to educate the public about the disease. This is particularly crucial for the LGBTQ community, which is statistically less likely to seek health care but has seen a rapid spread of the virus."

Hundreds of millions of dollars remain in federally funded grants for child care providers, with updated distribution formulas that increase awards based on capacity and reward providers who cover non-traditional hours. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) $230 million has already been distributed through the grant program, with $705 million remaining available for providers. The money comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and can cover expenditures such as pandemic and operating costs, workforce recruitment and retention, access development, mental health workforce, and family support.

In this latest, third round of grants, ODJFS said it revised funding formulas based on public feedback. Grants will scale based on capacity, with a base of $50,000 for centers and $10,000 for home providers, plus $1,100 per seat up to maximum capacity, meaning a center with a maximum capacity of 150 children could be eligible for up to $215,000.

Urban planners speaking at Ohio State University's (OSU) panel discussion on the Intel project east of Columbus say social and economic equity should be the goal of transportation development in Central Ohio, if not the way to sell mass transit to the area's suburban, exurban and rural residents. OSU's Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA) hosted the discussion with center Director Harvey Miller as moderator and Senior Planner Lexi Petrella of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Senior Development Director Kim Sharp of Central Ohio Regional Transit Authority (COTA), and Assistant Professor Andre Carrel of OSU's Knowlton School of Architecture as participants. "Where will these new employees come from and where will they live?" CURA asked of the massive, high-tech installation. "What are the long-lasting impacts on our water and energy resources? What kinds of transportation infrastructure investments should we make to protect our quality of life?"

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), speaking with Hannah News Tuesday at the NCSL Legislative Summit in Denver, said that while there is not any decision on how lawmakers will move forward after the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the most recent congressional map, he is not sure it will be practical for lawmakers to get it done in the 30 days prescribed by law. In a 4-3 decision issued last month, the Court invalidated the second set of congressional district boundaries by the Ohio Redistricting Commission earlier this year, ordering a new set of maps to be produced under the provisions of the Ohio Constitution. Under Article XIX of the Ohio Constitution, the General Assembly has 30 days to produce a new plan if a Court invalidates an adopted plan. If lawmakers fail within that timeframe, it goes to the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which has another 30 days to adopt a new plan. Huffman said there is no decision on how to proceed at this point.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors will hear a proposal in August to place just under 20 percent of its $21.9 billion portfolio with Massachusetts-based Meketa Investment Group, one of six applicants for the state contract that also included three Ohio firms. BWC's investment team met with Meketa for a due-diligence review after interviewing three finalists in June, which included Callan LLC of Chicago and StepStone Real Estate of Cleveland and New York. Other respondents to BWC's March request for proposal (RFP) were The Townsend Group of Cleveland; ORG Portfolio Management LLC of Beachwood; and RVK Inc. of Portland, OR.

The state of Ohio and the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) will receive $23.5 million over three years as part of the U.S. Economic Development Administration's (EDA) Good Jobs Challenge program, according to announcements from Gov. Mike DeWine and the OMA. The program is meant to strengthen workforce partnerships that lead to well-paying jobs, according to the DeWine release.

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