The 134th General Assembly commenced in early January and is off to a running start with the FY22-23 Transportation and Operating Budgets under consideration in the Ohio House of Representatives. COVID, education funding reform, and last General Assembly’s HB6 continue to take priority for legislators. Innovation districts are being established around the state as Ohio tries to drive more residents to the state. Also, U.S. Senator Rob Portman suddenly announced he does not intend to seek reelection, opening the door for a competitive open seat election in 2022.
The legislature is working on FY22-23 Transportation Budget (HB 74), which should be signed into law by March 30th in order to go into effect on July 1st, the beginning of the new fiscal year. House hearings have already started, and it will likely move to the Senate in early March. The House has simultaneously started hearings for the Operating Budget (HB 110), which needs to be signed into law by June 30th.
This month, Governor DeWine released his second Executive Budget, which did not dip into the Rainy Day fund, which currently stands at $2.69 billion. This is largely due to the influx of federal funds in addition to steps the state took early on during the COVID crisis, which included freezing and cutting spending and then refinancing the state's debt as well as the unintended consequences of the pandemic's shifting consumers' buying habits from purchasing services — which are not subject to the state sales tax — to purchasing goods, which are taxed and resulted in increased revenue. His budget proposal addresses infant mortality, COVID-19, childcare, kinship caregiver support, unemployment, student wellness initiatives, education and EdChoice, Medicaid, incarceration alternatives for those with mental illness or substance use disorders, and more. Some highlights from DeWine’s proposal can be found here.
Also available in the full update is more information on the budget timelines and plans for departments including:
- Ohio Department of Health (ODH)
- Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS)
- Ohio Department of Education (ODE)
- Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM)
- Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (ODMHAS)
FACE MASKS & VIRTUAL HEARINGS
In 2021, the Republican-led legislature has not mandated face masks and held hearings, fundraisers and events in-person, and many Democrats have spoken out about the need for virtual hearings and access for constituents. Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) introduced two bills: HB55, which allows for virtual testimony, and HB56, which would require Members to wear masks. Many across the state have pointed out this has the potential to include more people with and without underlying conditions who reside far from Columbus, thus increasing access to the state government. G2G will continue to monitor these bills and how the Statehouse functions during COVID.
ODJFS announced it would continue providing additional food benefits for Ohio children through the end of the school year. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) payments help children who normally receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program but learned remotely (or a hybrid of remote and in-person learning) during the school year.
PHARMACISTS REIMBURSEMENT OPTIONS
Last month, Medicaid rolled out a system for pharmacists to enroll as recognized providers and bill the department for a number of new services, so they can manage medication therapy in collaboration with a prescribing medical professional and administer a wider range of immunizations and certain injectable medications. While their services have evolved and expanded over the years, the mechanisms through which pharmacists are paid have been limited largely to dispensing drugs and administering vaccines.
FAIR SCHOOL FUNDING PLAN
The Fair School Funding Plan, also known as the Cupp-Patterson Plan, was reintroduced in the House, jointly sponsored by Rep. Jamie Callendar (R-Concord) and Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland). The genesis of HB1 came from concerns with the state's current school funding formula raised by now-Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and former Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson), as well as by the "Fair School Funding Workgroup" of school treasurers and leaders.
EDUCATION & COVID
Governor DeWine reaffirmed his commitment to getting students back to in-person learning by March by expanding the investment in student wellness and success programs to $1.1B. A December study by ODE found schools and districts used student wellness and success funds to start more than 3,000 separate initiatives, such as building onsite health clinics, counseling, and after school programs, which serve over a million Ohio children. DeWine asked that school districts to design plans to meet the needs of the students in their districts by no later than Thursday, April 1.
INNOVATION & BUSINESS
The CyberOhio Advisory Board found 42% of Ohio high schools offer at least one computer science class, compared to a 47% national rate. The Executive Budget addresses this gap, proposing a guarantee for access to computer science classes, giving students a statutory right to a computer science class that they can either get through their school or another provider of the student's choice. Meanwhile, the Ohio Cyber Collaboration Committee (OC3) and the Ohio Cyber Reserve (OhCR), has delayed some in-person OhCR training but they currently have three teams established and around 60 members, largely recruited through word of mouth.
Cincinnati — Last March, Cincinnati became the first Innovation District and has led to a dramatic success story since then, including partnerships with Microsoft and other companies and significant increases in patents, technology transfer and commercialization. JobsOhio allocated up to $100M to research- and talent-focused initiatives at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center for the district.
Cleveland — Ohio’s second innovation district will be set up in Cleveland with the goal of making Ohio a global leader in health care fields including pathogen research as part of a project expected to generate 20,000 jobs in the next 10 years and create an economic impact of $3B. Details for the Cleveland are as follows:
- Funding — $300M invested by the Cleveland Clinic, $110M from JobsOhio, and $155M from DSA, including $55M in related tax credits which were approved for the clinic’s new Global Center for Pathogen Research & Human Health.
- Jobs — Expected 10,000 direct jobs in health care and information technology and 10,000 indirect jobs, including entry-level positions.
- Partners — Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), MetroHealth System, University Hospitals (UH) and Cleveland State University (CSU).
Columbus — Columbus will hold Ohio’s third innovation district. The Columbus Innovation District will bring together globally recognized education and healthcare research institutions to bolster the creation of in-demand jobs and fuel $3B in economic impact for Columbus and Ohio over the next 10 years. This will be a hub for innovation and growth, expanding science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) educational opportunities, positioning Ohio to compete nationally for growing tech and healthcare employer. Details for the Columbus Innovation District are as follows:
- Funding — JobsOhio, Ohio State and Nationwide Children's will invest $1.1B in the Columbus Innovation District.
- Jobs — 20,000 new jobs in central Ohio over the next 10 years, involving an estimated 10,000 direct STEM jobs in the technology and healthcare industries, as well as 10,000 indirect jobs in the community at large.
- Partners — JobsOhio, Ohio State and Nationwide Children's