The state legislature remains in recess and is scheduled to return after Labor Day for committees and session. The House made several changes to their session schedule and will not have their first session likely until October while the Senate is scheduled for session in September. The latter half of 2023 will be focused on redistricting, since the State of Ohio is operating under unconstitutional maps, as well as the State Capital Budget. The Capital Budget is a mechanism for the state to fund community projects and focuses on repairing and expanding various structures throughout the state for nonprofits, universities, local government, and others. Any nonprofits interested in seeking Capital Budget funding must get organized now. G2G is here to help, so please contact us: aharless@G2Gconsulting.com. Below are updates on the state legislature and administration and key issues: education, health, technology, and elections.
Department of Children and Youth
Governor DeWine has appointed Kara Wente as the Director of the new Department of Children and Youth (DCY). Wente previously served as the Director for the Governor’s Office of Children’s Initiatives. DCY will consolidate all services for children and their families in Ohio that are currently scattered through multiple agencies, such as the departments of health, disabilities, development, health and addiction services, and education. Although Wente’s appointment is subject to the approval of the Senate, which is expected as a leading advocacy organization focused on early childhood issues, Groundwork Ohio, among others praised the announcement. G2G has worked closely with Director Wente in her role in the Governor’s Office of Children’s Initiatives and is excited to continue to work with her in her new role.
OneOhio Recovery Foundation
Governor DeWine has named Alisha Nelson as the first Executive Director of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation. Nelson previously worked in the private sector where she supported behavioral health payment innovations in the Medicaid system. Nelson was also the first Director of RecoveryOhio, where she brought together efforts from across state government to prevent and treat substance abuse and mental health issues. The OneOhio Recovery Foundation is non-profit created at the direction of Ohio’s state and local leaders to distribute 55% of the funds Ohio receives from the pharmaceutical industry for its role in the national opioid epidemic. The Foundation works with local interests to support opioid misuse treatment, recovery and prevention efforts, and invests funds to support these efforts for Ohioans for their future. G2G is closely monitoring the OneOhio Recovery Foundation and potential funding opportunities.
Securing Capital Budget Funding for Nonprofits
Since the state operating budget has concluded (with G2G securing several projects totaling close to $4 million), the state legislature will now shift to the state capital budget. The capital budget is a mechanism for the state to fund community projects. Whereas the operating budget focuses on how to keep the state functioning by funding various operational costs, the capital budget focuses on repairing and expanding various structures throughout the state. Furthermore, unlike the operating budget, every request to the legislature for capital budget funding must in some way benefit the Ohio public and not only be for the benefit of a private business. Entities that frequently ask for capital budget funding include nonprofits, universities, conservation centers, theatres, and sporting facilities. Typically, nonprofits will ask for capital budget funding for building repairs or building expansions in the range of $50K-$500K, though it does depend on the size of the project. A successful capital budget request must contain multiple components, such as:
- A nexus (connection) to a state agency or public university in Ohio.
- This is because the funds an organization receives do not go directly to the organization applying for funds. The funds go to the state agency or university the organization works through, then that state agency or university funnels the money to the organization.
- A positive economic impact on the community where the project is located.
- Additional funding toward the project such as donations, grants, or funding from the organization asking for funding itself.
- A local grassroots campaign demonstrating their support for the project.
- The legislator whose district contains the project supporting the request.
Now is the time to begin to assess funding needs, compile all necessary material for your project to share with legislators, build connections with the state legislators representing the district in which your project is located, crafting the message on how explain the need for funding, and contact the state agency or public university which would serve as your state nexus. The deadline for legislators to have a finalized list of projects they are requesting funding for is the end of 2023 to early 2024. The capital budget bill will pass the legislature in February-March and for community projects, funds will begin to be dispersed in mid-to-late 2024 and throughout 2025, once a joint use agreement or cooperative use agreement is established between the state entity and the community organization. If you are interested in seeking Capital Budget funding and would like help from the G2G team, please let us know.
Early Childhood Education (ECE) Grant
An investment of $122 million over the biennium from the state funded Early Childhood Education (ECE) Grant will assist an additional 14,901 children from low-income families in providing access to high-quality preschool education. ECE Grant funds are awarded to existing high-quality early care and education programs within high-need areas of the state who provide developmentally appropriate learning environments that address the outcomes and goals essential for healthy development and academic growth. This year, 435 new grantees will join 339 existing grantees to provide preschool education to 31,569 3- and 4-year-old children across the state. All allocated slots are being paid at $4,250.
Free Period Products in Schools
The state operating budget includes a $5 million appropriation in FY24 to provide free period products for girls enrolled in grades 6-12, as championed by State Senator Nickie Antonio, who is senior on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Of the $5 million, $2 million will go toward installing product dispensers and $3 million will go toward purchasing the products. Ohio now joins 23 states (including Alabama, California, Illinois and Maryland) that have legislation to increase access to free period products in schools. Data from states with such laws in effect indicates providing students with easily accessible period products has increased school attendance by 2.4% and reduced the health risks that students potentially face when experiencing a lack of access.
Department of Education and Workforce
The recently enacted state operating budget, HB 33, includes a provision that changes the name and functions of the Ohio Department of Education to the Department of Education and Workforce. The current powers and duties of the State Board of Education will be divided between the State Board of Education and DEW. DEW will be responsible for overseeing primary, secondary, special, and career-technical education in Ohio. Under HB33, Governor DeWine gained the power to appoint leadership of the education department, while the State Board of Education will focus primarily on teacher licensure and discipline. Governor DeWine has stated he is not sure whether he will nominate multiple candidates for leadership within the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) or begin with the director position and then nominate deputy directors from there. No specific timeline has been issued for the process, but G2G will keep monitoring the activities.
Recent data from HPIO indicated there was a 9% decline in the overall infant mortality rate in the past decade and the gaps in outcomes between White and Black Ohioans have widened. In 2021, the Black infant mortality rate was 164% higher for Black Ohioans than White Ohioans. These racial disparities in infant mortality persisted even when taking parental income and education into account. The HPIO report concluded that racism was a primary driver of racial disparities in infant mortality. Access to healthcare, healthy eating, and community conditions such as housing, transportation, education, and employment were all sited as top priorities to tackle going forward to not only decrease the racial gap but eliminate infant mortality completely in Ohio.
Medicaid Coverage for Doula Services
The state operating budget includes a provision that approves Medicaid coverage for doula services. The governor’s initial budget did not include doula coverage, but the Ohio House added in language establishing a five-year pilot program. The Senate removed that provision, but it was added back in during Conference Committee. The budget does not lay out a timeline for the doula program, but it is estimated that it will take at least a year for the program to officially be developed. Other improvements in the budget designed to enhance the health of mothers and children includes continuous Medicaid coverage for children from birth to age three once they are determined eligible. This means children won’t lose access to Medicaid because of administrative issues or missed paperwork fillings.
At a meeting of the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board, Lt. Governor Jon Husted stated that although he believes artificial intelligence (AI) should not be regulated at the state level, state government should have laws that outline how the technology may be used within government agencies. Husted also mentioned that we should be slow to regulate something we don’t fully understand, and we should be cautious about allowing sensitive data to be placed in an AI chat tool. While pivoting to how AI can affect education, Husted is not concerned about students using AI to cheat on schoolwork. Instead, AI can be used as an equalizer for students who do not have access to educational materials at home and AI can act as their 24/7 tutor.
2023 Innovation Summit
The 2023 Innovation Summit was held in August through a partnership by the Ohio Innovation and Technology Association, Lt. Governor Jon Husted’s office, and InnovateOhio. The purpose of this summit was to focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and how the progression of technology will affect the state. Lt. Governor Husted stressed the importance of AI, specifically by calling it a collaborator and how business owners around the state have told him they used AI in some capacity to start their business. Outside of AI, other panelists spoke about the importance of cybersecurity for local governments, as their communities have been attacked in the past. They noted this issue affects small communities, which face significant staffing shortages. Additionally, there were several conversations about the connectivity gap in high-speed internet connection throughout various parts of the state. Many highlighted the continued work of the Department of Development’s Broadband initiative to supply all Ohioans with reliable high-speed internet and close the digital divide.
Ohioans voted on August 8th in favor of rejecting Issue 1, the proposal that would have raised the threshold for approving future changes to the state constitution through the ballot box from a simple majority of over 50% to 60%. With nearly 700,000 voters hitting the polls on election day, Issue 1 failed by a margin of 57.01% voting no and 42.99% voting yes.
Issues on the Ballot
On Tuesday, November 7th, Ohioans will head back to the polls to vote on two issues – both of which are the product of years of planning and execution from activist groups:
- Reproductive Rights — This amendment would enshrine abortion rights into the state constitution and allow for personal choice in decisions such as contraception and would forbid the state from prohibiting or interfering with the "voluntary exercise of this right." However, the amendment would also allow the state to prohibit abortion after fetal viability. The campaign in favor of the ballot initiative collected nearly 500,000 signatures and a total of 55 counties fulfilled the percentage requirements for verification.
- Recreational Cannabis Legalization —This measure, pushed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CTRMLA), would allow recreational use of cannabis for residents 21 and older if passed. Initially, CTRMLA turned in more than 220,000 signatures but were short 700 signatures due to several signatures that were unable to be verified. CTRMLA then collected over 4,000 signatures to send back to the Secretary of State’s office, which well surpassed the threshold to be included on the general election ballot.
A proposed constitutional amendment would create a 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission consisting including Alabama, California, Illinois and Maryland of Republican, Democratic, and independent citizens who broadly represent the different geographic areas and demographics of the state. This amendment, put forth by the nonpartisan coalition Citizens Not Politicians, bans current or former politicians, political party officials, lobbyists, and large political donors from sitting on the commission. It requires fair and impartial districts by making it unconstitutional to draw voting districts that discriminate against or favor any political party or individual politician. It also mandates the commission to operate under an open and independent process. Currently, the Ohio Redistricting Commission (ORC) is in body that oversees drawing new district maps. The ORC consists of seven members. One Republican House Senate legislator, one Democrat House and Senate legislator, the governor, the auditor of state, and the secretary of state. Ohio is currently operating under unconstitutional maps and the redistricting process will likely start later this year, though specific timing is unknown until the Ohio Supreme Court decides when to begin again.
This amendment was already rejected by Attorney General Dave Yost as he stated that the proposed amendment summary language was incomplete and misleading. Yost highlighted certain sections of the amendment he took issue with such as vague language regarding the composition of the new commission, conflicting language about incarcerated individuals, and the description of tie-breaking procedures. Governor DeWine has cited his concerns with the amendment are that it does not prioritize competitiveness, does not keep communities together, and changes the duration of drawing new maps from ten years to six years. Citizens Not Politicians has said it plans to revise the amendment and resubmit it.