The House and the Senate have returned to the Statehouse following the holiday season and are preparing for the March 19 Primary Election. All Ohio and U.S. House districts, even-numbered Ohio Senate districts, and a U.S. Senate seat are up for election. This year’s election season comes as the House and Senate continue to deliberate on Capital Budget requests, with the finalized bill slated to pass in May or June. Meanwhile, funding for mental health care, workforce development, and high-speed internet services are being distributed to various entities throughout the state and Ohio Third Frontier has a February 9 deadline for phase 1 and phase 2 project proposals for the Technology Validation and Start-up Fund. G2G continues to see legislators and executive staff regularly about both the Capital Budget and the newly established One Time Strategic Community Investment Fund. See the full report for updates on the state legislature, Governor DeWine’s Administration, and key issues impacting business, technology, education, elections, health, and state events.
State of Ohio
Ohio Israel Bond
Ohio’s Treasurer Robert Sprague is planning to purchase a three-year, fixed-rate $30 million Israel Bond. The bond will mature on Feb. 1, 2027, at a 4.81% interest rate. The Treasurer’s office also noted Israel’s “perfect” record when it comes to payments since the Israel Bonds inception. For more than 30 years, all Ohio Treasurers have invested in these bonds. After the purchase, the Ohio Treasury holds a total of $262.5 million in Israel Bonds and this purchase brings Ohio’s total purchases to $312.5 million since Treasurer Sprague took office.
Gender-Affirming Medical Treatment
Governor Mike DeWine's administration has backed off its plans to impose rules that advocates feared would have restricted gender-affirming medical treatment for adults in a way no other state has. The rules proposed by two state departments would have required psychiatrists, endocrinologists and medical ethicists to have roles in creating gender-affirming care plans for clinics and hospitals. Patients under 21 would have been required to receive at least six months of counseling before starting hormone treatment or receiving gender-affirming surgery. The Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services both issued revised proposals after gathering public comment. Both said they were swayed by what they had learned as transgender people and care providers weighed in. The Health Department said it received 3,900 comments. In the new versions, the rules would apply only to the care of minors, not adults.
House and Senate Resignations and Appointments
The House and Senate have each witnessed changes in their chambers. In early December, Sen. Brian Chavez (R-Marietta) was appointed to replace Sen. Frank Hoagland who announced his retirement. Sen. Chavez is currently running to continue his service in 2025 with his own 4-year term and joins the legislature after serving in several roles within the Ohio oil and gas industry. In January, former Rep. Mary Lightbody resigned from her position and Rep. Beryl Brown Piccolantonio (D-Gahanna) was appointed to finish her term. Rep. Piccolantonio joins the legislature after serving as the president of the Gahanna School Board and as a member of the Gahanna Civil Service Commission. Rep. Piccolantonio is also running to continue her service in 2025 with her own 2-year term. Former Rep. Tavia Galonski resigned from her position in January to become Clerk of Courts for Summit County. Summit County Councilwoman Veronica Sims was the sole applicant to be appointed to complete Galonksi’s term and will be sworn into the legislature in the coming weeks. Sim is also the sole candidate running for House District 33 to continue her service in 2025. Galonki’s resignation opened the Assistant Minority Whip position for House Democrat which was been filled by Rep. Michele Grim (D-Toledo).
State Capital Budget and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF)
The House just released its 318 projects for the new One Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF). OTSCIF will appropriate $700 million that was set aside by last year's Operating Budget. Each chamber is supposed to designate recipients for half this total, but the Senate has not taken action yet. Many are eager to see where the funds go since the constraints that apply to the Capital Budget do not apply to this unique one-time fund. The legislature has defined ideal requests as being transformational, one-time projects that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Ohioans. The Senate is not expected to release details on how they will spend $350 million until after the primaries and debates have heated up over how the two chambers will work together to allocate these funds.
Meanwhile, the Capital Budget, which typically includes approximately $150-200 million for impactful, public-facing community projects is stalled until after the primaries. As with the OTSCIF, the House is ahead of the Senate. The deadline for House members to submit a finalized list of their projects to the finance chair was December 18 but the deadline for the Senate isn't until April 8. The House is likely to unveil and vote on their portion of the Capital Budget bill on February 7 as the Senate continues to hear requests. Organizations are being encouraged to submit applications to the Senate in addition to the House. G2G continues to actively work on Capital Budget requests while closely monitoring deadlines and other updates related to this process.
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 rolling out 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 Ohio Department of Development (ODOD), which oversees the program along with the Office of Budget & Management, set up a website listing guidelines for project requirements and eligibility. Eligible applicants include counties, cities, villages, townships, conservancy parks, and nonprofits 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 ODOD is expected to start receiving applications 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 from BroadbandOhio, $20 million from Cleveland, and the remaining $23 million from foundations. DigitalC, a Cleveland-based nonprofit social enterprise that provides fixed wireless internet, plans to start the project in early 2024 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 one million Ohioans, lack access to high-speed internet service and 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 9 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 February 9 and awardees will likely be announced in April.
RecoveryOhio Director Aimee Shadwick recently provided a briefing on addressing the 2019 recommendations that targeted ending negative stigma while improving education, enhancing the mental health and addiction treatment workforce, and implementing effective preventative strategies, among others. Shadwick highlighted workforce development, drug prevention, and harm reduction efforts as key successes. She also acknowledged treatment and recovery efforts need improvement. In response to the opioid crisis, Gov. DeWine started RecoveryOhio to make 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 provide resources to local law enforcement to stop illicit drugs.
Affordable Housing Program
The DeWine Administration released the Welcome Home Ohio Program (WHO) guidelines that aim to improve access to affordable housing. It 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 ODOD 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
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. 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 be over $100 million and serve roughly 850,000 students. The state aims to tackle food insecurity because a recent study found SNAP expansion during the COVID pandemic helped decrease food insecurity nationwide. Food insecurity among low-income Americans dropped by almost 5% during the pandemic. It fell 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 concluded 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.
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.