With the March 19th Primary Election just weeks away, Statehouse activity has slowed down. All Ohio and U.S. House districts, even-numbered Ohio Senate districts, and a U.S. Senate seat are up for election. The House and Senate have been working on the Capital Budget with nonprofit funding requests being considered and prioritized. The final bill is expected to pass in May or June. G2G keeps working with legislators and executive staff on both the Capital Budget and the newly established $700 million One Time Strategic Community Investment Fund. See details below.
State of Ohio
Department of Education & Workforce
Stephen Dackin was confirmed as Director of the new Department of Education & Workforce (DEW). His priorities include improving literacy, which coincides with the state’s new literacy mandates aimed at strengthening the workforce of future generations. Dackin views student wellness as an additional priority due to the pandemic disrupting students’ education and intends to listen to feedback from workforce leaders and members of the education community to achieve his goals.
Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services
LeeAnne Cornyn, former Director of the Office of Children’s Initiatives and Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor DeWine was confirmed as Director of the Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services. Cornyn plans to build off former Director Lori Criss' previous work to increase visibility, accessibility, and effectiveness of behavioral health care while also emphasizing prevention. The department plans to build out community capacity for crisis care, expand the behavioral health workforce, invest in research and innovation, and continue the work of the 340 Workgroup (stakeholders exploring how to update county mental health board laws). Cornyn also plans to work closely with the Director of the Department of Children & Youth Services, Kara Wente, and the Director of the Department of Education & Workforce, Stephen Dackin, to advance preventative measures.
The OneOhio Board approved 2024 operating and grant budgets in December. OneOhio Recovery Foundation was created by Governor DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost to manage the majority of proceeds for settlements with drug manufacturers and distributors over their role in the opioid crisis. The Foundation’s operating budget for 2024 totaled $1.9 million. The 2024 grant budget is $51.6 million, which will be disbursed to the 19 regions across the state. Region 1, which is Franklin County, was allocated almost $6 million. Region 3, which is Cuyahoga County, was allocated almost $2 million. Franklin, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton County combined equaled a little less than 25% of all the grant funding.
State Capital Budget and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF)
The House and Senate continue to analyze Capital Budget requests and One Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF) requests. The Capital Budget typically includes approximately $150-200 million for impactful, public-facing community projects across the state. G2G is advocating for nonprofit project requests and is seeing the House is moving faster than the Senate. With the Senate’s deadline to submit projects being far later than the House on Monday, April 8, the Capital Budget won't be unveiled until May or June.
Meanwhile, OTSCIF is unique and popular because it is a $700 million pot of funding that was set aside in last year's Operating Budget and is exempt from many of the Capital Budget restrictions. The Statehouse has deemed ideal requests to be transformational, one-time projects that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Ohioans.
House Bill 2 was recently amended to include their $350 million half of the OTSCIF funding and passed the House Finance Committee and full chamber that same day. However, the Senate has yet to unveil their outline of their other half of the OTSCIF funding and have not indicated a timeline on when they may do so. We expect no action in the Senate on this until after the March primaries.
Business & Tech
State Income Tax / Commercial Activity Tax
In January, House and Senate legislators held a joint press conference to announce the introduction of legislation to eliminate the state income tax and commercial activity tax (CAT), which is an annual tax imposed for doing business in Ohio. Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester), Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City), Rep. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon), and Rep. Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek) are leading this effort. Their intention is to grow Ohio’s economy from $750 billion (numbers from 2022) to $1 trillion and increase Ohio’s congressional representation by one seat over the next six years. Although the two proposals have a similar end goal, each chamber will have a slightly different approach. In the House plan, the state income tax will go flat in 2028, while the Senate’s plan would have the state income tax go flat in 2026. Both plans aim to eliminate the CAT by 2030.
Artificial Intelligence Policy
Lt. Governor Husted released a policy governing the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) within state government. This policy, developed by a group of state government leaders and IT experts, defines core principles for responsible implementation and effective management of the technology. The policy provides guidance on the responsible use of AI in the state and establishes guardrails for generative AI while also detailing the requirements for integrating AI technologies into state work. This includes a formal process for identifying, documenting, reviewing, and approving AI use, which will be overseen by an AI Council supported by the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.
The DeWine Administration announced it is beginning the roll-out process of the All Ohio Future Fund, a $750 million program which largely consists of interest-free and potentially forgivable loans to fund infrastructure needs for economic development sites. The All Ohio Future Fund was in the most recent Operating Budget and aims to support local communities with site-readiness and preparation to attract economic development projects. The Department of Development, which oversees the program along with the Office of Budget & Management, set up a website for guidelines covering project requirements and eligibility. Eligible applicants include counties, cities, villages, townships, conservancy parks, and nonprofits among others willing to develop project-ready sites to improve the economy. Awardees will be expected to complete projects related to public roadwork, water and wastewater infrastructure, demotion, wetland maintenance, and utility enhancements. The Department of Development is not receiving applications until sometime in early 2024.
High-Speed Internet Service
The DeWine Administration announced plans to provide quality, affordable, and accessible high-speed internet service throughout Cleveland in partnership with the city and DigitalC. The project’s total cost is estimated to be $53 million, which includes $10 million in funding from BroadbandOhio, $20 million from the City of Cleveland, and the remaining cost to be funded by various foundations. DigitalC, a Cleveland-based nonprofit social enterprise which provides fixed wireless internet, plans to start the project in late January and will provide low-cost broadband access to 170,000 households in Cleveland by mid-2025. DigitalC also plans to offer digital literacy training courses to Cleveland residents upon providing access to broadband service. Currently, more than 300,000 households, representing nearly 1 million Ohioans, lack access to high-speed internet service. In Cuyahoga County, close to 40% of households lack internet access.
Ohio Third Frontier
Ohio Third Frontier has requested proposals for phase 1 and phase 2 projects of the Technology Validation and Start-up Fund (TVSF) with a February 9th deadline. Ohio Third Frontier is an internationally recognized, technology-based economic initiative that works with innovative startup companies across the state and supports technology entrepreneurs. TVSF’s enhances Ohio’s economy by commercializing technologies developed at higher education institutions, nonprofits, and federal labs. The fund also supports startups by licensing their products. Phase 1 awards are intended for research institutions in Ohio to assist with the cost of testing for new technologies. Phase 2 awards are for companies that are ready to move from Ohio research institutions to the marketplace. Applications for TVSF are due on Friday, February 9 and awardees will likely be announced in April.
The RecoveryOhio Advisory Council received a briefing from RecoveryOhio Director Aimee Shadwick and state agency leaders on the work done toward the recommendations made in 2019. RecoveryOhio is an initiative started by Gov. DeWine with the goals of making a full continuum of treatment available to Ohioans in need, provide support services for those in recovery, offer direction for the state’s drug prevention and education efforts, and work with local law enforcement to provide resources to fight illicit drugs. Recommendations from 2019 included ending negative stigma while improving education, enhancing the mental health and addiction treatment workforce, and implementing effective preventative strategies among others. Workforce development, drug prevention efforts, and harm reduction were highlighted as key successes, though treatment and recovery efforts were noted as areas of needed improvement.
Affordable Housing Program
Official program guidelines were released for a new program aimed at improving access to affordable housing. The Welcome Home Ohio Program (WHO) is designed to provide grants for the purchase of qualifying residential properties, the cost of construction or rehabilitation, or a nonrefundable tax credit for qualifying activities. WHO, which was a provision in the most recent state operating budget, will be overseen by the Department of Development and includes a $150 million pool of funding which will be used to tackle the rising homelessness crisis in Ohio. Over the biennium, landbanks will have access to $100 million in grants to purchase, rehabilitate, or build qualifying residential properties for income eligible Ohioans. The remaining $50 million in nonrefundable tax credits will be available to landbanks and developers for qualifying rehabilitations and new construction once a property is sold. Estimates suggest WHO can fund the incorporation of 2,150 affordable, owner-occupied single-family homes across the state.
Food Insecurity Reduction
A recent study demonstrated that SNAP expansion during the pandemic helped decrease food insecurity nationwide. According to the study, which was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, food insecurity among low-income Americans dropped by almost 5% during the pandemic. Research also showed that food insecurity dropped from 20.6% in 2019 to 15.5% in 2021, then returned to 20.1% in 2022. Among SNAP recipients, the rate of food insecurity decreased from 34.6% in 2019 to 21.6% in 2021. In 2022, 20.1% of low-income adults reported food insecurity while 27% of SNAP recipients reported the same that year. Researchers highlighted that the expansion of SNAP was a critical component of decreased food insecurity in 2021 while also noting that the decision of some states to end pandemic-era SNAP benefits was a possible explanation for the increase in 2022.
Ohio will soon join 34 other states to launch permanent summer grocery benefits in the summer of 2024 as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program to reduce food insecurity and boost nutrition for children while they are not in school. This program, the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer, will provide families with $120 per eligible child to buy food at grocery stores, farmers markets, and other authorized sellers. The Ohio Department of Job & Family Services and Department of Education & Workforce, expect benefits to total slightly over $100 million and will serve roughly 850,000 students.
Long-Term Mental Health Study
A long-term study understanding the root causes of mental health diseases and how to prevent such conditions for future generations is underway. State operating budget funding of $20 million was awarded to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to help pay for the study. State of Ohio Action for Resiliency Network (SOAR) will take place over the next decade and will analyze existing research surrounding mental health. The first phase recorded around 3,000 individuals from 30 counties who completed a wellness survey 10 days after it was sent to 300,000 Ohioans, accounting for about 20% of the overall goal of 15,000 respondents. The second phase consists of researchers doing a deep dive into the brain to collect and evaluate data from 3,600 members in 1,200 families. Researchers are still in the process of gathering and analyzing data from phase 1 and 2.
Over 86,000 Ohioans under the age of 18 were disenrolled from Medicaid between March-September of 2023, making Ohio the fourth highest disenrollment rate in the country. During the pandemic, Ohio’s Medicaid programs provided continuous coverage in exchange for additional federal funding as part of a COVID-era policy from February 2020-March 2023. This data, recently released by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, looked at state Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program enrollment changes among children and youth since normal redeterminations have resumed. The amount of youths that were disenrolled prompted the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, to write to Governor DeWine and other governors urging them to adopt additional federal strategies to help prevent children from losing coverage. DeWine’s office responded that the disenrollment amount is not indicative of a problem but rather the efficiency of the department and also noted that there are no anticipated changes to Medicaid in the foreseeable future.
Higher Education Workforce Training
Governor DeWine announced $40 million in Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills grants (RAPIDS) will be disbursed to 81 institutions of higher education to pay for equipment needed for regional-specific workforce training. RAPIDS is a grant program administered by the Department of Higher Education that aims to make regionally strategic investments that foster a resilient workforce. The state operating budget included a substantial provision of expansion to RAPIDS, which allowed for more funding to be given to institutions in need. RAPIDS funding will be used to train Ohio students for in-demand fields of work such as technology and advanced manufacturing. This funding was championed in the state operating budget to ensure workforce training providers have the necessary equipment to educate the next generation of Ohio’s workforce.
K-12 Intervention Services
Legislation that requires schools to provide additional assistance to students struggling with math and reading was passed unanimously by the Senate. Senate Bill 162, sponsored by Sen. Andy Brenner (R-Delaware), states that public schools must provide free, evidence-based academic intervention services to students who score limited proficiency on state English and math assessments. During the 22-23 school year, roughly 20% of students scored below standard levels in English and about 33% were below standard levels in math. Although the bill passed unanimously, Senate Democrats questioned whether all schools had enough resources to provide the support this bill mandates. Senate Bill 162 now awaits a committee assignment from the House.
Below is an outline of some of the key state and congressional races to watch during this election year and an overview of the election timeline.
- Find your polling location.
- February 20th — Deadline for voter registration for the Primary Election.
- March 12th — Deadline to request an absentee ballot for the Primary Election.
- March 19th — Primary Election Day.
- Polls open from 6:30AM-7:30PM.
- October 7th — Deadline for voter registration for General Election.
- October 29th — Deadline to request an absentee ballot for the General Election.
- November 5th — General Election Day.
- Polls open from 6:30AM-7:30PM.
- S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D) is seeking reelection, but has 4 Republican challengers seeking to replace him, including: State Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Bernie Moreno, and Doug Stuart.
- Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M. (R-02) has announced his retirement. 12 individuals are seeking to replace him including State Sens. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) and Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro).
- Bill Johnson (R-06) has retired early to become President of Youngstown State University. 5 individuals are seeking to replace him including State Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem) and State Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Paris Township). The Primary Election for this seat will still be held on March 19th and the Special Election will be June 11th.
- Marcy Kaptur (D-09) has 5 Republicans seeking to replace her including State Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) and former State Rep. Craig Riedel.
- Mike Carey (R-15) is being challenged by State Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus).
- Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) is running to replace term-limited Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls).
- Mike Loychik (R-Bazetta) will primary Sen. Sandra O’Brien (R-Ashtabula) for the Senate District 32 seat despite both members not being term limited.
- Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) will seek to replace term-limited Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron).
- Beth Liston (D-Dublin) will seek to replace term-limited Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard).
- Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is running unopposed for House District 78.
- Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) will run for a House seat against Crystal Lett, who shefaced in the 2020 election.
- George Lang (R-West Chester) has 2 Republican primary opponents, including former State Rep. Candice Keller.
- Senate Democrats are most likely to flip the seats of the following individuals due to the districts now leaning in favor of Democrats: Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), and Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard).
- There are 7 Democratic primary challengers seeking to replace Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus).
- There are 3 Democratic challengers and 4 Republican primary challengers against Rep.David Dobos (R-Columbus).
Ohio Republican Party Endorsements
The Ohio Republican Party has opted not to endorse any Republican House candidate seeking reelection if they voted for Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) to become speaker. This includes 17 Republicans, along with Speaker Stephens; three House members who did not vote for Speaker Stephens but were deemed too close to Stephens to receive the endorsement; and Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), who voted for Speaker Stephens but is running for the state Senate. Speaker Stephens, who won the speakership over Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) due to Democrat support, will likely face Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) in the next speakership race as Huffman transitions to the House from the Senate. Candidates who are not endorsed by their state’s political party are not eligible for the perks that come along with state party support, including a discounted rate on political mailers.
National Association of Women Business Owners
G2G led a roundtable on advocacy for women-led businesses and attended the NAWBO Decoding the Secrets of Digital Marketing event. G2G is the policy adviser for NAWBO this year and is planning advocacy campaigns.
Ohio Excels Forum for High School
G2G attended a forum hosted by Ohio Excel and the Gates Foundation on the value of education beyond high school and the report “High Value Education Beyond High School.” Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Mike Duffey explained it is not enough to just focus on affordability and access but also need to make sure there is value to students in the degree they get by making sure they know what jobs are in high demand and pay well. While you earn $1M more in a lifetime with a degree, people still question if the value will apply to them. The average debt for a someone with a bachelor’s degree in Ohio is $34K. Interestingly, there is $119M in Pell Grant funding left on the table each year and Ohio is ranked 20th in FAFSA completion. The forum also discussed how the need to focus on low earning fields of high society value such as early childhood educators and how to support those students and the workforce.