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Week in Review: Aug. 29, 2021

Written on Aug 27, 2021

Provided by Hannah News Service

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Ohio Tax Credit Authority Monday announced a total of eight Job Creation Tax Credits that are intended to spur 1,105 new jobs representing $57 million in new payroll and more than $281 million in total investment, while retaining another 912 jobs statewide.

ECONOMY

A survey of Ohio economists released by the public policy group Scioto Analysis shows that only five of the 24 respondents agree state spending cuts during the pandemic will lead to more economic growth in the state. They were asked if the "DeWine administration's decision in 2020 to cut spending rather than use 'Rainy Day' budget stabilization funds during the pandemic will lead to more economic growth for Ohio in the long run," with 16 economists disagreeing or strongly disagreeing while three were uncertain or had no opinion.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday that Ohio's unemployment rate was 5.4% in July, up from 5.2% in June. The number of nonagricultural wage and salary jobs rose by 19,200 over the month, from a revised 5,321,700 in June to 5,340,900 in July. ODJFS said the number of workers unemployed in July was 301,000, up from 291,000 in June. This number has decreased by 235,000 in the past 12 months, down from 536,000 in July 2020 when the unemployment rate was 9.3%. Ohio's unemployment rate for July 2021 matched the national rate, which decreased from 5.9% in June.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The House Health Committee Tuesday heard more than four hours of testimony and received testimony from more than 1,000 witnesses on both sides of legislation that would bar vaccine mandates by public and private entities as hundreds of supporters of the bill protested vaccine mandates outside of the Statehouse. What happens next with HB248 (Gross) is up to Republican leadership, Chairman Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) indicated, saying he hopes to be able to move forward with amendments to the bill when the House reconvenes next month. House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) had announced Monday that the bill would be paused after Tuesday's hearing as they discuss next steps. The bill has been controversial since its introduction, with proponents calling for personal freedom and the ability to make their own choices when it comes to taking the vaccine, while opponents said it will hamper the ability to respond and

control infectious diseases, especially at a time when the Delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a spike in cases across the country, including in Ohio.

MARIJUANA/HEMP

Attorney General Dave Yost Friday has certified the summary language for a proposed initiated statute that would legalize marijuana use in the state for all adults that is being proposed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA). A previous iteration of the summary had been rejected by the AG's office which said it was not a "fair and truthful representation of the proposed statute." Now, the proposed statute heads to the Ohio Ballot Board which must determine whether the proposal contains a single law or multiple laws. If the ballot board certifies the petition, the petitioners must collect signatures from registered voters equal to at least 3% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election or at least 132,887 valid signatures. In addition, those signatures must come from voters in at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties and, for each of those counties, the number must equal at least 1.5 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

PENSIONS

Retirees in the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System who aren't yet of Medicare age will need to opt in during an upcoming open enrollment period to receive monthly payments for purchasing health coverage, as the termination of the OPERS group health care plan looms at year's end. The OPERS Board of Trustees voted in early 2020 to end the group plan effective in 2022, switching to a model where it will instead provide monthly subsidies for pre-Medicare retirees to buy coverage on the open market. This health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) will be administered by Via Benefits, a vendor OPERS chose to serve as the OPERS Pre-Medicare Connector to help move retirees into new plans and manage the reimbursement payments. Open enrollment runs Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. During this time, pre-Medicare retirees will have to opt in to the HRA with Via Benefits in order to begin receiving subsidy payments.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

Members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission Friday unveiled a new website which they said was designed for "transparency and easy access." It includes a way for the public to submit written testimony as well as their own maps and a portal to watch commission meetings. Also available is a link to the census data being used as the basis for redrawing the district boundaries. The website can be found at www.redistricting.ohio.gov/.

The Ohio Redistricting Commission failed to adopt its rules as planned on Thursday, with the co-chairs, Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) and Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R-Lima) saying they were still working on them.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Ohio had 15,320 new businesses file paperwork with the secretary of state's office in July, according to Secretary of State Frank LaRose. According to the secretary of state's office, 126,665 new businesses have been created in the first seven months of 2021, a 32% increase from the same timeframe in 2020, when there were 95,671 new filings.

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE

Members of DriveOhio's Advisory Board Wednesday weighed in on where Ohio stands with smart mobility and where it should be going in the next 15 years. The board meeting held virtually included remarks from Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks and Joshua Eck, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who reaffirmed their commitment to the work of DriveOhio, a state initiative working to improve smart mobility. Eck said the message for Ohio shouldn't be just that the state builds cars, but that it is constantly innovating. As the automobile industry changes, Ohio will go with it.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

The recent appellate court ruling on supplemental unemployment benefits raises key constitutional questions about the governor's and lawmakers' authority, Attorney General Dave Yost said Thursday in filing an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court. The 10th District Court of Appeals ordered Tuesday that Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook reconsider his decision not to order resumption of supplemental benefits of $300 per week under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. A panel of judges ruled 2-1 that Holbrook abused his discretion in finding the litigants had no likelihood of success on the merits of their case.

For the week ending Aug. 21, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported 8,182 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor. That number is lower than last week, when the department reported 9,684 traditional jobless claims. Ohioans filed 136,163 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 6,587 fewer than the previous week.

In other developments, Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks told Hannah News on Thursday that the DeWine administration will soon officially pay off the approximately $1.47 billion the state has borrowed from the federal government to cover unemployment compensation costs during the pandemic. The state is using a large chunk of its American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to pay off the loan, as required by HB168 (Fraizer). "We are working with ODJFS to do that over the next couple weeks. We will be initiating that payment on Aug. 31, in accordance with HB168, and it will be paid to the feds sometime in the first week of September," Murnieks said.