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June 21st, 2024

Ohio Legislative Update

Last Updated: June 21st, 2024


The legislature finally revealed recipients of Capital Budget funding and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Funds (OTSCIF) after a 14-month period that left many wondering how these funds would be disbursed. The legislation will be passed by both chambers in late June. Meanwhile, the House and Senate moved multiple bills relating to artificial intelligence, cell phone restrictions during school hours, student data privacy, housing, and childcare. The state is also set to receive $80 million in federal grant funding for new transportation projects. With so much happening in Columbus in recent weeks, G2G has been working with many legislators and executive staff to gain intel and shape the process with the Capital Budget and OTSCIF process. We were thrilled to see our clients fare so well this cycle.



Legislation to certify President Biden will be on the November ballot was signed by Governor DeWine. House Bill 2 moves the candidate certification deadline from 90 days before the election to 65 days as the Democratic National Convention, where Biden will be nominated, occurs after the Ohio deadline. This measure passed 63-31 in the House with 31 Republicans voting no while the Senate voted 30-1. This comes as all four chamber leaders publicly said they believe President Biden will be on the ballot despite the previous legislative shortcomings associated with the matter.

Meanwhile, DeWine also signed House Bill 1, which prohibits foreign nationals from contributing to ballot issue campaigns. This measure passed 64-31 in the House and 24-7 in the Senate along party lines. This legislation was amended to include permanent lawful US residents, known as green card holders, in the ban on contributions from foreign nationals. The amendment, offered by Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), drew criticism from other House and Senate Republicans who claimed that green card holders are not defined as foreign nations under state and federal law.


Resignations and Appointments

The House Democratic Caucus had its second leadership change this year when former Rep. Jessica Miranda resigned from her position as minority whip to become the new Hamilton County auditor. Former Rep. Brigid Kelly recommended Miranda as her successor after she resigned from the auditor position in March and passed away shortly thereafter after a two-year battle with cancer. House Democrats chose Jodi Whitted (D-Madeira) to replace Miranda. Rep. Whitted is a social worker with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work who spent her early career working with children and families to strengthen bonds, address trauma, and develop healthy coping and communication. She then transitioned to work in the medical field with individuals with chronic health conditions. Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) was named the new minority whip.

The House Republican Caucus witnessed several changes in committee leadership. Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) removed the following legislators from their committee chair assignments: Rep. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandra), Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati), Rep. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin), and Rep. Marilyn John (R-Shelby). Members attributed the speaker’s decision to finance reports that indicated the former committee chairs donated to challengers seeking to replace Stephens-backed incumbents for the upcoming election. None of the six legislators who were removed voted for Speaker Stephens and no longer sit on their former committees in any capacity. Committee reassignments are as follows:

  • Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon) — Chair of the Public Health Policy Committee, gave up his chairmanship of the House Pensions Committee.
  • Don Jones (R-Freeport) — Chair of the House Agriculture Committee.
  • Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) — Chair of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, removed as chair of House Technology and Innovation Committee.
  • Melanie Miller (R-Ashland) — Chair of the House Technology and Innovation Committee.
  • Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) — Chair of the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.
  • Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) — Chair of the House State and Local Government Committee.

On the federal level, former State Sen. Michael Rulli won the special election for Ohio’s 6th Congressional District with 55% of the vote. This special election was spurred by former Rep. Bill Johnson’s decision to become Youngtown State University president. Rulli, who was in his second term in the Ohio Senate, won the primary for Ohio’s 6th Congressional District in March and will be on the ballot to serve a full term in November. Rep. Al Cutrona (R-Canfield) was named as Rulli’s successor after serving two terms in the House.


State Capital Budget and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund

Legislation containing recipients of Capital Budget funding and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Funds (OTSCIF) was unveiled. The Capital Budget typically includes $150-200 million for public-facing community projects while OTSCIF is a $700 million pot of funding (split between the House and Senate) set aside in last year's State Operating Budget. It is exempt from many of the Capital Budget restrictions and requests are meant to be one-time funds for transformative projects.

The House’ $350 million portion of OTSCIF allocations were included in House Bill 2, which passed the House in February. The Senate released their portion of OTSCIF in June and also released all Capital Budget allocations shortly afterwards. All OTSCIF and Capital Budget projects are included in Senate Bill 292, which will be amended into House Bill 2 and passed by both chambers in late June.

Business & Tech

Artificial Intelligence

Legislation restricting the use of artificial intelligence (AI) had its second committee hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senate Bill 217 requires AI generations to have a watermark, prohibits simulated child pornography, and prohibits identity fraud using a replica of a person’s persona. Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Colerain Twp.) and Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) spoke during sponsor testimony about misuse of AI and risks posed to Ohioans and their children. They also noted the possibility of AI creating exploitation through location identification, voice mimicry, and generation of realistic, yet fabricated images. Attorney General Dave Yost provided proponent testimony for the bill’s second hearing and emphasized his support of protecting vulnerable populations. A third hearing has not been announced.


Transportation Projects

Ohio will receive ~$80 million in federal grant funding for new transportation projects. The City of Columbus will receive $42 million for its West Broad Street Bus Rapid Transit project, which includes construction of 17 bus stations, a park-and-ride center, and 9.3 miles of bus lanes in downtown Columbus that will reach out to the suburbs. The project will reduce commute times, decrease traffic congestion, and enhance economic development. The project also received praise from Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, who called it an important step in providing adequate public transportation for Columbus’ rapidly growing population. Other projects selected to receive a portion of the grant include Toledo’s Riverfront Infrastructure Vitality and Equity Restoration projects, $28.5 million; Cuyahoga County’s Veterans Memorial Bridge Connectivity Plan, $7 million; and Hamilton County’s plan to evaluate east-west connectivity, $300,000.


Literacy Push

House and Senate Higher Education Committee chairs issued a warning to universities to train future educators to apply the state’s preferred method of reading instruction. The “science of reading,” a House provision within the most recent State Operating Budget, is a statewide effort to encourage improved literacy skills by implementing the curriculum in K-12 schools. The science of reading refers to research that has been conducted for decades by scientists and literacy experts that shows there is an actual science behind learning to read and certain skills need to be taught, including phonics. Rep. Tom Young (R-Dayton) and Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), the chairs of the higher education committees in their respective chambers, shared their concerns about universities not implementing the “science of reading” training fast enough for new educators, though there were no specific universities mentioned. This measure, which is also supported by Gov. DeWine, comes as 40% of Ohio third graders are not reading proficiently.


K-12 Cell Phone Restrictions

An amendment requiring school districts to address cell phone usage during class received a near unanimous vote of passage from the House and Senate. This amendment, which was offered by Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), requires all traditional public, charter, and STEM schools to adopt policies allowing minimal use of cellphones. Brenner worked closely with the Department of Education and Workforce and Gov. DeWine to draft this amendment and added it to House Bill 50, which revises the military enlistment diploma seal. House Bill 50 was signed by DeWine.


Student Data Privacy

Legislation aimed at protecting student privacy had its second hearing in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee. Senate Bill 29, sponsored by Sen. Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City), prevents schools and technology providers from tracking student activity on school-issued devices and prohibits using student data for advertising. Although this bill passed the Senate unanimously, House committee members questioned its practicality. Their concerns stemmed from whether the legislation would prevent schools from detecting threatening searches, explicit material, or chronically absent students. Sen. Huffman stated he would be happy to look at any type of amendment put forth to address their concerns. A third hearing on SB29 has not been announced.


Breastfeeding Juror Exemption

Legislation to excuse breastfeeding mothers from jury duty is has been signed by Gov. DeWine. House Bill 34, sponsored by Rep. Roy Klopfenstein (R-Haviland) and Rep. Angela King (R-Celina), allows breastfeeding mothers to be excused from jury duty with a signed affidavit. This legislation received no opponent testimony and unanimously passed both chambers.


Childcare Study Recommendation

Legislation to provide over $10 million to expand affordable childcare through public-private partnerships was recently introduced. House Bill 484, sponsored by Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) and Rep. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield), follows one of nine recommendations issued by the last General Assembly's Study Committee on Ohio's Publicly Funded Childcare and Step-Up to Quality Program. This legislation aims to provide grants of up to $750,000 to enable employers, childcare professionals, and community organizations to creatively expand on-site and near-site capacity for childcare. It will also address the childcare workforce shortage as grant funding could also be used to support a company that wants to offer an unused portion of its facility at low rent to a childcare provider, whereupon said childcare provider could have more cash to offer higher wages to staff. HB484 had its first hearing in the House Finance Committee, but no further hearings have been announced.


Housing Grants

Legislation to eliminate the non-business credit for non-resident property owners and use those resources to help local governments grow housing supply had a third hearing in the House Government Oversight Committee. House Bill 499, sponsored by Rep. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon) and Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati), creates a new housing fund to provides grants to local governments that implement at least three of twelve pro-housing policies. 5% of the funding pool would be reserved for local governments that adopt six policies, which include eliminating parking minimums, reducing single family zoning, providing density bonuses, accelerating permitting promises, and ensuring housing construction in high economic opportunity areas. These grants, which would be administered by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, are estimated to be around $100-$150 million annually. A fourth hearing has not been announced.


Housing Report

The Senate Select Committee on Housing released its first housing report. Commissioned in August 2023 by President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and chaired by Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester), the committee conducted extensive research on the Ohio housing market, hosted 12 livestreamed meetings across Ohio, and heard over 35 hours of testimony from more than 200 witnesses. Their goal is to learn more about current barriers and identify solutions that ensure Ohio has available, accessible, and affordable housing for a growing population. The report showcases trends in the housing market such as a constant rise in rental prices, low value single-family homes, and falling construction rates for multi and single-family homes. The report recommended addressing zoning codes, increasing transaction transparency for renters and homeowners, implementing property tax relief programs, reviewing the state’s housing tax credit programs, and introducing comprehensive legislation that tackles the broad spectrum of housing affordability.


Newborn Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Screening

Ohio has become the first state to screen newborns for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), one of the most severe forms of inherited muscular dystrophies. A provision in the State Operating Budget added DMD to the Ohio Department of Health’s Newborn Screening Program. This list also contains 40 other rare diseases relating to genetic, endocrine, and metabolic disorders that are already screened. The current screening program enhances the health outcomes of almost 300 babies each year by identifying several rare diseases. It is estimated an additional 35 babies annually will be diagnosed with DMD.


Senator Sherrod Brown

G2G got to visit with Senator Brown and several nonprofits in June. The Senator emphasized his work in Congress to bring more resources back to Ohio and advance legislation. He has led the Congressionally Directed Spending projects for the state in recent years as both previous Senator Rob Portman and current Senator JD Vance would not make those submissions. G2G continues to work closely with him and the rest of the delegation to advance these projects and topline funding levels key for the life sciences and nonprofits.


Greater Cleveland Partnership Empowering Local Leadership Event in DC

G2G attended the Greater Cleveland Partnership Empowering Local Leadership Event in DC and connected with several Members of Congress from Northeast Ohio. G2G spoke with Congressman Max Miller about a variety of important topics including economic development and enhancing municipal services. We also spoke with Congressman Dave Joyce about access to affordable, impactful autism services given the increasing rate of autism nationwide.


Members of Congress at Local Events

G2G attended several events with Congressman Mike Carey in Columbus. He shared one of his priorities is to help convert unused space in downtown Columbus buildings to affordable housing for those who would otherwise struggle finding somewhere to live in or near the city. G2G also saw Congresswoman Emilia Sykes in Peninsula, Ohio when she presented the Girl Scouts of North East Ohio with federal funding for their STEM Center of Excellence. Congresswoman Sykes shared her commitment to young women and increasing their access and knowledge of STEM fields.


Breaking the Poverty Cycle in Central Ohio

G2G attended the Columbus Metropolitan Club “Pathways to Prosperity: Breaking the Poverty Cycle in Central Ohio” event in June. Topics of discussion included factors that keep one in ten Columbus families impoverished, breaking generational poverty, and accessible resources that address poverty. Panelists also spoke about how poverty disparities between certain groups have widened despite Columbus’ continual population and financial growth. Featured speakers included Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO, The Columbus Urban League; Karen Mozenter, CEO, Jewish Family Services; Tony Collins, CEO and President, YMCA of Central Ohio; Lawrence Funderburke, Founder and President, Funderburke Institute of Financial Empowerment; and host Tonisha Johnson, Emmy Award-Winning Multimedia Journalist, Spectrum News 1.


Ohio Perinatal Mental Health Task Force Advocacy Day

The Ohio Perinatal Mental Health Task Force Advocacy Day was held at the Statehouse on May 1st and welcomed more than 70 advocates to Capitol Square to share their stories. May 1st is World Maternal Health Day and was a perfect day to educate legislators on perinatal mental health. “Perinatal” is the time between conception to one year after birth. During that timeframe, 1 in 5 women will experience mental health complications such as depression and anxiety. The purpose of the advocacy day was to educate on perinatal mental health and emphasize the importance of comprehensive and compassionate care with an end goal of making Ohio one of the leading states in the country in maternal mental health education and access-to-care and treatment in the future. To elevate awareness of perinatal mental health, Rep. Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) and Rep. Anita Somani (D-Dublin) introduced House Concurrent Resolution 16, which recognizes the importance of perinatal mental health. This legislation has passed committee and is waiting for a vote on the floor of the House.


State of the State with Governor Mike DeWine

G2G attended the Columbus Metropolitan Club event “State of the State with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine.” DeWine elaborated on many key areas of focus he mentioned during his State of the State address in April. Notably, DeWine continued to emphasize the importance of good health and education outcomes for Ohio’s youth. DeWine also spoke about mitigating the opioid crisis, Ohio’s thriving metro parks, and how to keep students attending an Ohio university in the state upon graduation. The conversation with DeWine was led by Jo Ingles, a long-time journalist with the Statehouse News Bureau.


G2G will keep tracking what’s happening in Columbus and across the state, especially as things heat up during the height of election season in the fall. Stay tuned!