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Week in Review: July 30, 2023

Written on Jul 28, 2023

The proposed initiated statute to legalize marijuana for adults ages 21 and older fell just short of the number of valid signatures required to make the ballot in November, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) now has 10 days to collect 679 additional valid signatures. CRMLA submitted 123,367 valid signatures, and 124,046 are required. During the first round of signature gathering, CRMLA was initially 13,062 signatures short, and the campaign was able to collect enough to satisfy the requirement during the additional 10-day period.

A proposed reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment has enough signatures to make the November ballot, the secretary of state's office said Tuesday, though it still faces a potential barrier for passage. State Issue 1, which is on the August special election ballot, would raise the threshold for passage of future constitutional amendments to 60 percent. However, recent polling suggests that while the reproductive/abortion rights amendment has a majority of voter support, it falls short of 60 percent. Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights submitted more than 700,000 signatures earlier this month to get on the ballot. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a letter to the ballot committee saying boards of elections certified 495,938 of the signatures for the proposed "Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety." The campaign needed at least 413,487 signatures, or 10 percent of the total votes cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election, to qualify for the ballot. Additionally, the campaign met a requirement to gather valid signatures equal to at least 5 percent of the total vote cast for the office of governor in that county at the last gubernatorial election in at least 44 Ohio counties. LaRose said in his letter that the proposed initiative hit the county threshold in 55 counties.

While both sides of Issue 1 debate the influence of out-of-state special interests on Ohio's Constitution, they are also all bringing in large amounts of the same out-of-state money to help in their efforts to pass or defeat the issue that will be on the Tuesday, Aug. 8 special election ballot. Thursday was the deadline for groups that are spending money to advocate for or against Issue 1, which would make it more difficult to amend Ohio's Constitution, to report their spending activity. Protect Our Constitution, the coalition supporting the "Yes" side of the Issue, reported $4.85 million in contributions, nearly $1.6 million in spending, and $3.252 million on hand. Of the money it received, $4 million has come from Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest, IL, who owns packing supplies company Uline, and has funded anti-abortion causes around the country. Uihlein had also spent more than $1 million earlier this year on lobbying for passage of SJR2 (McColley-Gavarone), which put the issue on the ballot. Meanwhile, One Person One Vote, the coalition against Issue 1, has raised $14.8 million, spending $10.4 million, with $4.4 million on hand. The largest contributor to One Person One Vote -- $2.5 million -- was the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a dark money group based in Washington, D.C., that has funded left-leaning causes and campaigns, including for President Joe Biden.

Protect Our Constitution, the main coalition backing Issue 1, which would raise the threshold of passage for constitutional amendments to 60 percent, released its first ad of the campaign over the weekend. The 29-second ad, titled "We the People," notes how the founders of the United States had set a two-thirds majority threshold in order to amend the U.S. Constitution and suggests it is too easy to amend Ohio's Constitution.

In debates held Tuesday and Wednesday, Secretary of State Frank LaRose promoted Issue 1 as a way to protect Ohio's Constitution from what is to come rather than what has previously happened. Meanwhile, former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, an opponent of Issue 1 who appeared with LaRose at a forum hosted by the City Club of Cleveland Wednesday, argued that the issue would remove checks and balances that people have on Ohio government. Along with Montgomery, the "No" side was represented in Cleveland by former Gov. Dick Celeste. LaRose was joined by Rep. Susan Manchester (R-Lakeview). LaRose argued that it should be harder to amend Ohio's Constitution, which he said could be up for sale by out-of-state special interests. When it was noted that only 19 citizen-initiated amendments have passed since 1912, LaRose said Issue 1 is more about the future, noting not only an abortion and reproductive rights amendment on the November ballot, but also potential minimum wage and livestock care amendments that could come in the future. Montgomery called the whole issue hypocritical, especially those in support who say it will limit special interests. "Special interests are behind this because they know they can get to the Legislature. The Legislature is persuadable in ways that we have seen already," she said, pointing to the recent federal convictions of former Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges. She also said with the 88-county requirement, one county with persuadable voters could put an end to something that is wanted by the other 87.


With court orders still in place to block the prior budget's attempt to penalize schools that can't consistently transport charter and private school students to class and back home on time, lawmakers took a slightly different approach to addressing the difficulties in bus transportation for school choice families in the new budget. In HB33 (Edwards), lawmakers removed references to "a consistent or prolonged period of noncompliance" and instead specified that schools are out of compliance if they experience five or more consecutive days, or more than 10 total days during an academic year, of certain behavior. That noncompliant conduct includes dropping students off more than 30 minutes before school starts; picking them up more than 30 minutes after it ends; failing to transport students entirely; or failing to comply with any other student transportation requirements in law. Regarding the litigation arguments about ODE's failure to follow rulemaking procedures when implementing the 134-HB110 (Oelslager) provisions, the department said it does not have information presently on whether the department will go through the formal rulemaking process for the HB33 provisions regarding penalties for transportation compliance problems.

An improving economic outlook coupled with Ohio's initial experience in resuming eligibility renewals post-pandemic brought Medicaid caseload projections in the final budget down from the administration's initial estimates. Recent reporting by Ohio to the federal government shows procedural problems are the leading cause of people's removal from Medicaid. Near the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the federal government started to provide states extra Medicaid matching funds, in exchange for a promise not to remove most people from the program. That state of affairs continued for about three years, leading Ohio's Medicaid caseload to increase by about 800,000 people and reach a peak of nearly 3.6 million people in May of this year. Upon introduction of HB33 in February, the Ohio Department of Medicaid predicted only 220,000 of those added to the program would be removed in the new biennium, citing a different overall economic environment than the pre-pandemic reality as well as coverage pullbacks and rising costs in commercial insurance. Near the conclusion of budget deliberations, ODM's updated caseload forecasts instead predicted a decline of about 280,000 people.

The state budget's funding for schools to provide free feminine hygiene products in bathrooms will increase student attendance across Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said Wednesday. "This appropriation in the budget will change the way periods are perceived by students in Ohio," Antonio said during a press conference in the Ladies Gallery at the Statehouse. "Menstrual products are vital to the health and wellbeing of women and girls. By having period products be both accessible and free in Ohio schools, we can expect attendance in our schools to increase," Antonio continued. "Research shows that among teenage girls in the U.S. ... often or sometimes they can't do their best schoolwork because they have lack of access to period products. It really gets in the way of them being able to rise to their fullest potential." HB33 provides $5 million in FY24 for schools to provide free period products in schools. Of the $5 million, $2 million will go toward installing product dispensers and $3 million will go toward purchasing the products.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) Thursday was briefed on three new programs it will help oversee thanks to provisions put into biennial budget HB33. Commission Executive Director Matt Dietrich told the commission that the programs include the Grade Crossing Elimination Program proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine, the Wayside Detector Expansion Grant Program and the Orphan Rail Program, the latter two both added by lawmakers. Dietrich said the goal of the grade crossing program is to leverage federal funds, and there will be a lot of flexibility with these funds.


Gov. Mike DeWine and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) Director Kevin L. Miller announced this week that up to $7,000 per person is available to Ohioans with disabilities for college, training and credentialing programs for the 2023 fall term. The OOD Education Support Funds help students with disabilities in their pursuit of continued education. OOD will provide all eligible college and non-traditional students with disabilities up to $7,000, while participating in OOD services, to be used for tuition or educational expenses during the upcoming fall term. This includes students with disabilities participating in colleges, apprenticeships, trade schools and credentialing programs. Students with disabilities (e.g., physical, learning, mental health, sensory, hearing, vision, and more) can qualify for the OOD Education Support Funds through the following steps:

- Apply for OOD services online at

- OOD staff will call the applicant and schedule an in-person or virtual appointment.

- Complete the required paperwork to finalize the application.

- OOD staff will determine eligibility and help plan the next steps.


The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Wednesday the third application round for the Transformational Mixed-Use Development (TMUD) program has opened, providing tax credits to major projects in Ohio. The period closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8. The first two rounds have seen $200 million awarded to 25 projects expected to result in over $3.3 billion in new payroll and $3.7 billion in investments. Tax credits can be used to help finance new construction and/or improve vacant buildings, and the properties must have at least two mixed uses and three if one is to be a parking structure.


Ohio's unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in June, the lowest unemployment rate since unemployment rate reporting started in 1976, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The state added 1,000 jobs over the month, going from a revised 5,621,500 in May to 5,622,500 in June. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in June was 200,000, down from 207,000 in May. The number of unemployed has decreased by 24,000 in the past 12 months from 224,000. The June unemployment rate for Ohio decreased 0.5 percent from 3.9 percent in June 2022. The U.S. unemployment rate for June 2023 was 3.6 percent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), unemployment rates were lower in June in 11 states, and stable in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Nonfarm payroll increased in five states, decreased in two states, and was essentially unchanged in 43 states and the District of Columbia.


While the State Board of Education soon will hold only a fraction of its current powers, one former board member who moved on to the General Assembly thinks it can still play an important role as a conduit for public feedback on actions of the renamed and revamped Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). And it can do so better as an all-elected body, according to Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula). In an interview with Hannah News, she said her bill reflects the conversation in recent years about the importance of elected representation and concerns that the board's size caused difficulties. Under her HB235, the board's structure would shift from a hybrid of 19 appointed and elected members to 15 members, each of whom would be elected to represent a district aligned to Ohio's congressional district boundaries.

More than $26 million in Governor's Emergency Education Relief funding will go to six tutoring vendors to provide services across the state at no cost to schools and districts, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. Schools and districts should apply to the Ohio Department of Education to access the state-funded high-quality tutoring programs. The investment is a part of "Future Forward Ohio," the state plan to help students recover from pandemic learning losses. High-dosage tutoring is a key component of that plan. DeWine noted research that shows high-dosage tutoring can produce "large learning gains for a wide range of students, including those who have fallen behind academically." The state previously awarded $14 million in Statewide Mathematics and Literacy Tutoring Grants to Ohio colleges and universities planning to create or expand mathematics and literacy tutoring programs for Ohio's K-12 students in one-on-one or small-group settings. In addition, Ohio was one of only five states awarded a grant by Accelerate, a national nonprofit, to drive continued student recovery from the pandemic through evidence-based tutoring models.

Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of ranked choice voting in Ohio. Ranked choice voting is a term used to refer to electoral systems where voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. A candidate who wins the majority of first-preference votes is declared the winner, but if there are no candidates receiving a majority, the candidate with the lowest amount of first-preference votes is dropped off and those who voted for that candidate will have their vote count for their second choice. Proponents of the system say it works like a runoff but does not require a new election, as a person's vote automatically transfers since they ranked their preferences. They argue it ensures the winner has support from a majority of voters and allows for a greater diversity of parties and candidates. However, Gavarone maintains that the process "distorts election outcomes. If implemented in Ohio, it would undo more than two centuries of voters having the ability to cast their vote with one vote and one voice, and alter our elections to look similar to the way it's done in New York City and San Francisco."


Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office said that Ohio is 3,060 poll workers away from meeting its goal of 31,811 committed poll workers for the Tuesday, Aug. 8 special election. As of Tuesday, 53 counties have not met the goal set for committed poll workers. Counties still in need of poll workers include Athens, Auglaize, Butler, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Clermont, Clinton, Columbiana, Coshocton, Defiance, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Harrison, Highland, Huron, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lake, Lawrence, Licking, Lorain, Madison, Mahoning, Marion, Meigs, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Muskingum, Noble, Paulding, Pike, Sandusky, Scioto, Seneca, Shelby, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Van Wert, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Williams, Wood and Wyandot. Of those 53 counties, 24 have met the minimum number of poll workers needed to conduct the election.


The following endorsements were made over the week:

- The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Matt Dolan announced the endorsements of Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett, Shelby County Sheriff Jim Frye and Auglaize County Sheriff Mike Vorhees.

- Secretary of State Frank LaRose endorsed Donald Trump for president.

- Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) endorsed Bernie Moreno for U.S. Senate.

- The congressional campaign of Republican Craig Riedel announced the endorsements of U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY).


Attorney General Dave Yost is exploring a run for governor when Gov. Mike DeWine is term-limited, according to multiple media reports. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Yost had updated paperwork with the secretary of state's office earlier this month indicating a gubernatorial run. A spokeswoman for Yost confirmed to that Yost is preparing a gubernatorial run. Yost looks to face Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who began laying the groundwork for a 2026 run earlier this year.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) discussed his goals for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Wednesday with reporters, noting Ohio installations likely to be supported and detailing two bipartisan bills that were recently amended into the NDAA with over 90 votes in favor of each. The Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act would prevent nations such as China and other adversaries from buying up farmland in Ohio and around the U.S., he said.


Judicial appointments made during the week include the following:

Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday appointed Michael DeLeone to the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division. DeLeone, of Concord, will assume office on Monday, Aug. 14, and will be taking the seat formerly held by the late Karen Lawson. DeLeone will serve the remainder of the unfinished term and will need to run for election in 2024 to retain the seat. DeLeone began his career in law in 2001 as an associate attorney for McIntyre, Kahn, & Kruse Company L.P.A. (now Western Hurd LLP). In July of 2022, DeLeone joined the Lake County Prosecutor's Office as an assistant prosecuting attorney. DeLeone earned his bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1995 from Kent State University. At the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, he earned his juris doctor in 2000 and master of law degree in 2007.

DeWine Thursday appointed Chris Berhalter to the Belmont County Court of Common Pleas, General and Domestic Relations Division. Berhalter, of Martins Ferry, will assume office on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, and will be taking the seat formerly held by Judge Frank Fregiato, who retired. Berhalter will serve the remainder of the unfinished term and will need to run for election in 2024 to retain the seat. He began his career in law in 1996 at Sommer, Librati & Berhalter. He became a partner of the firm in 2000. In 2004, he was elected Belmont County Prosecuting Attorney. Berhalter was elected in 2014 as Belmont County Court Judge, Northern Division and has served in the role until his latest appointment. He is a two-time graduate of Ohio State University where he received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism in 1993 and law degree in 1996.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Monday that it has discovered and fixed a security flaw that fraudsters had attempted to use to exploit Ohio's unemployment system, an issue that led to the lockdown of thousands of accounts. ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder said in a statement that the department had been experiencing an increased number of attempts to fraudulently access the state's unemployment system. The root cause of the system vulnerability was determined to be a code flaw in the Ohio Job Insurance (OJI) system, specifically the linking of identity and authentication functionality between OJI and the state's OH|ID single sign-on system. As a precaution, ODJFS said it had locked more than 28,000 accounts with suspicious activity. When an account is locked, the legitimate user cannot access their unemployment account and payments on the accounts are suspended.

The Buckeye State is in last and second-to-last place in the rankings of U.S. states and the District of Columbia in two key jobless claims metrics, according to financial advisory website WalletHub. Ohio ranks 51 in unemployment claims per 100,000 people in the labor force, and 50 when measuring which states saw the largest decreases in jobless claims. Among Ohio's neighbors, Kentucky ranked the best for states where jobless claims decreased the most (2). The Bluegrass State was followed by Michigan (6), Indiana (28), Pennsylvania (39) and West Virginia (46).

This feature was provided by Hannah New Service and selected for you by OSCPA Government Relations Staff.

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