On November 7th, Issue 1 and Issue 2 were both approved by Ohio voters, which enshrines abortion in the Ohio Constitution and legalizes recreational use of cannabis, respectively. However, Republicans have said the fight is not over for either issue and they intend to continue to legislate on both. The House and Senate have a few scheduled session dates before the end of the year and committees are very active as we near the end of 2023. If you have a State Capital Budget request, now is the time to submit for the House while the Senate will not take up the budget until after March’s primary. G2G continues to talk to legislators about both the Capital Budget process and the process for accessing funding from the new Strategic Community Investment Fund.
See our full report below for updates on the state legislature and administration and key issues including: business, technology, education, elections, health, redistricting, and events.
State Budget Process
State Capital Budget and One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund (OTSCIF)
For the first time ever, there are two pots of funding for community organizations to apply for through the state capital budget process: traditional capital budget community projects and the One-Time Strategic Community Investments Fund. The Ohio General Assembly typically passes a state Capital Budget every two years. It includes a portion for community projects where local governments and certain nonprofits may submit requests for funding. The Capital Budget typically includes approximately $150-200 million for impactful, public-facing community projects across the state. Because these community projects are generally backed by state-issued bonds, they must meet strict requirements to be eligible for funding.
OTSCIF is unique because it will appropriate a second, $700 million pot of funding that was set aside by the most recent state operating budget. Many of the constraints that continue to apply to the Capital Budget do not apply to this unique one-time fund. Ideal requests will be transformational, one-time projects that make a meaningful difference in the lives of Ohioans. They should not require future state assistance or provide for operational/salary costs or pilot programs. Funds should be either first-in or last-out, meaning they spur future development or complete a project by matching other funding sources.
The House deadline for project submission is Monday, December 18th and the Senate deadline is Monday, April 8th. The timeline of the House and Senate considering requests many months apart is very different than most years. G2G is actively working requests and closely tracking deadlines and opportunities related to this funding.
Department of Education and Workforce
Governor DeWine will nominate Stephen Dackin as the new Director of the Department of Education and Workforce. Dackin previously served as a Member-at-Large on the Ohio State Board of Education. He also served as Superintendent of School and Community Partnerships at Columbus State Community College where he managed the college’s creation of a workforce pipeline between K-12 school districts, higher education institutions, employers, and community stakeholders. Dackin’s confirmation must be approved by the Senate before he assumes the role.
Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services
Governor Mike DeWine said Friday he is naming LeeAnne Cornyn, his deputy chief of staff and previously director of children's initiatives, to lead the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, succeeding Lori Criss, who leaves the post to join Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center after this week. Before leading OMHAS, Criss served as the CEO of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services providers and worked for the Ohio Commission on Minority Health.
Business & Tech
Charter Communications has announced plans to invest more than a billion dollars into expanding high-speed internet services to people in Ohio who lack service. Charter Communications will spend $500 million to improve infrastructure to provide internet speed of up to 100 Gbps across. The company will then spend an additional $750 million to extend broadband services to underserved areas in more than 60 counties in Ohio. The company’s investment will make gigabit broadband available to roughly 140,000 homes and businesses across Ohio. This announcement comes as Governor DeWine’s office noted more than 300,000 households in Ohio, or around one million people, lack access to high-speed internet.
Electric Vehicle Manufacturing
Ohio received two federal grants, each about $5 million, for electric vehicle manufacturing workforce development. One of the grants will provide for training and credentialing of 700 residents in 18 Northeast Ohio counties. Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) plans to work with the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, and education and training providers to prepare future individuals to work in battery production facilities. The second grant will support training and credentialing of 550 unemployed or underemployed Ohioans in Western and Central Ohio. ODJFS will identify and reach out to communities, create training programs that match industry needs, provide an educational pathway to those interested to get them back in the workforce.
Advanced Air Mobility
The House Aerospace and Aviation Committee heard presentations on advanced air mobility (AAM). DriveOhio Executive Director, Preeti Choudhary, shared how DriveOhio and the Ohio Department of Transportation are working to use such technology to ensure public safety using Ohio Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Center’s fleet of 45 electric aircraft. Ohio could see over 15,000 new jobs and $13 billion in economic activity over the next 25 years due to the progression of AAM technology. Ohio State Highway Patrol Captain Justin Cromer then explained to the committee how AAM can be used to support law enforcement in gathering intelligence, assisting in search activity, and for accident investigation.
Guidelines for a $125 million pool of funding for the construction of innovation hubs have been released. Innovation hubs are industry-focused centers of researchers and public and private partners who work together to create and develop innovative solutions and products. The hubs are meant to use existing industry and research strengths to build sustainable pipeline talent and commercialize new technologies in order to create jobs, increase STEM talent, attract research funding, and secure outside capital investment. Each applicant can apply for up to $35 million in funds. The funds can be used for capital expenses to establish an innovation hub, to support research and development activities, and to recruit and preserve research staff jobs. The program, which is administered by the Department of Development, is meant for small and medium-sized Ohio cities, as Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland already have innovation districts.
Biomarker Testing Coverage
In February, State Rep. Andrea White (along with Reps. Lipps, Manchester, Plummer, T. Young, Liston, Kick, Stewart, Troy, Brennan, Schmidt, Somani and Richardson) introduced HB 24 to require health plan and Medicaid coverage of biomarker testing for the purpose of diagnosis, treatment and the appropriate management of a disease or condition. The bill ties this mandate to only testing that is supported by medical and scientific evidence. On October 11th, the bill had its third hearing in the House Insurance Committee, where it was accepted with some modifications, including adding medical necessity to the bill as determined by the provider, not health plans and clarifies health plan issuers/Medicaid are not required to cover testing for screening purposes. With no activity in the Senate, this bill still has a ways to go, but if enacted it would impact not just health insurance, but patient care and physician decision-making while also spurring more R&D of future biomarker-based testing, as long as new FDA regulations for Lab Developed Tests (LDTs) don’t block innovation.
The Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee continued to question the efficiency and accuracy on how the Department of Medicaid is determining whether its members are still eligible after the process was temporarily stalled throughout the pandemic. During the pandemic, Ohio accepted federal funding for Medicaid and in exchange did not remove anyone from the program. During that time, Medicaid began developing a system to handle the increased caseload once redeterminations resumed, known as the "unwinding.” This included contracting with a third-party group to assist in identifying members who may no longer be eligible. This third-party source has processed roughly 1 million Ohio Medicaid members and recommended that 610,000 members were likely still eligible. The remining 370,000 were flagged as likely ineligible and require further manual review.
Expanded SNAP Eligibility
SNAP benefits have increased by 12.5% compared to last year to adjust for the current cost of living. The program, overseen by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, adjusted the maximum allotments starting for the next year based on the Consumer Price Index from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of June 2022. Maximum allotments have increased increments in all 50 states, except Hawaii. Additional regions with increased increments are the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. New SNAP benefit thresholds include:
- Household size: 1 | Maximum gross monthly income: $2,430
- Household size: 2 | Maximum gross monthly income: $3,288
- Household size: 3 | Maximum gross monthly income: $4,144
- Household size: 4 | Maximum gross monthly income: $5,000
- Household size: Each additional member: | Maximum gross monthly income: +$858
A new initiative aimed at improving services for children with special needs, called Ohio Promote Resources, Opportunities, and Meaningful Inclusion through Support and Education (PROMISE), has been announced. PROMISE’s goal is to increase access to quality child care and other support services for children with special needs. PROMISE will provide a number of different programs both to indicate credentialed child care facilities and to increase access to those facilities such as:
- Teaching early childhood educators how to create an inclusive environment for children with special needs.
- The Early Childhood Inclusion Center of Excellence will help parents find child care programs that have earned the Professional Early Childhood Inclusion Credentials and serve as an online hub for materials and training resources for educators and parents of children with special needs.
- A new scholarship program will be available to parents of children with special needs who wish to enroll in a designated Inclusive Child Care Program and whose families live at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
The Commission on Infant Mortality met to continue their conversations surrounding the social drivers leading to Ohio’s high infant mortality rate. Members of the commission heard from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) on their 2023 report, “Social Drivers of Infant Mortality.” HPIO highlighted there was a 9% decline in the overall infant mortality rate from 2011-2021. This rate fell from 7.9 infant deaths per 1,000 births in 2011 to 7 in 2021. The report also showcased the gaps in outcomes between White and Black Ohioans have widened. Infant mortality was 164% higher for Black Ohioans than White Ohioans as of 2021. Housing, transportation, education, and employment were all cited as continued actions Ohio must take to decrease infant mortality statewide.
Reduced-Price School Meals
Funding included in the state operating budget will go to schools across the state to reimburse them for the cost of students receiving reduced-price meals in order to make those students’ meals free. If a school collected money for any student who qualified for a reduced-price meal after October 3rd, 2023, they must refund those payments. Schools will then receive reimbursement of 30 cents for each reduced-price breakfast and 40 cents for each reduced-price lunch as outlined in the state operating budget to make up for that lost revenue. The reimbursement process will be automatic starting in the 2024-25 school year.
The Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) and the Ohio Traffic Safety Center (OTSC) are partnering for the upcoming school year to raise student awareness about safety measures at school and on the road. OSSC and OTSC, both divisions under the Department of Public Safety, are calling this new campaign “Safe Street Safe Schools” and are aiming to help students stay safe before, during, and after school, including travel to and from school. OSSC and OTSC will be distributing tool kits to parents and schools that contain social media contents, a video and script for morning announcements, various handouts, lanyards, and phone wallets. Teachers and parents will then be poised to start conversations with students about safety in school and in a vehicle.
Voter Turn Out
3.9 million Ohioans cast their ballots in the November 2023 election, representing a turnout of about 49% of registered voters. Considering trends in different election years, 49% turnout is significant for a non-presidential or midterm year. In the 2022 midterms, when Ohio voted on a U.S. Senate seat and eight statewide offices, 4.2 million Ohioans cast ballots.
Ohioans voted in favor of Issue 1, which enshrines abortion in the Ohio Constitution, by a margin of 56.6% voting yes and 43.4% voting no. Ohio will now be prevented from restricting abortion access before fetal vitality, which doctors say is around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. This vote comes as Ohio’s six-week abortion ban, which was blocked by a judge last year, was being considered by the Ohio Supreme Court. After the vote, House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) each highlighted the historic passage of Issue 1 while Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) have both indicated that Issue 1 is not the end of the conversation regarding reproductive rights in Ohio, which is now the seventh state where voters decided to protect abortion following the reversal of Roe vs. Wade.
Ohioans voted in favor of Issue 2, which legalizes the recreational use of cannabis for over 21, by a margin of 57% voting yes and 43% voting no. Issue 2 also allows individual Ohioans to be able to grow up to six plants and up to 12 per household. Supporters of Issue 2 have stated this measure would bring in between $350 to $400 million in tax revenue annually due to the 10% tax at the point of sale for each transaction. Ohio now becomes the 25th state to have fully legalized cannabis while 14 states have legalized medical use. However, Issue 2 may not be completely set in stone given it is a state law and not a constitutional amendment. Speaker Stephens and President Huffman have each suggested the legislature may review the law for possible amendments in the future. Additionally, Gov. DeWine has asked the legislature to pass a package of changes to the law to pull back some pieces of what was passed before it goes into effect on December 7th.
Redistricting & Politics
Ohio Congressional fundraising reports were released demonstrating where candidates landed in their respective congressional races. Financial reports for the U.S. Senate race showed current U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) has raised the most of any candidate going into the fourth quarter. On the Republican side, Bernie Moreno is just in front of State Sen. Matt Dolan, who also serves as Finance Committee Chairman overseeing Capital Budget requests. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Frank LaRose has raised the least of three candidates.
Shifting to U.S. House races, reports indicated all incumbents have consistently outperformed their challengers, including U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-09), Greg Landsman (D-01). Emilia Sykes (D-13), Joyce Beatty (D-03), and Jim Jordan (R-04).
Additionally, long-time Cincinnati area Congressman Brad Wenstrup announced he will not be seeking re-election in 2024. Wenstrup has been in the U.S. House since 2013. State Senator Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) has announced his candidacy for the seat.
House and Senate Resolutions Supporting Israel
The House and Senate each adopted resolutions condemning the attacks on Israel and to express support for the Israeli people. HR 292, sponsored by Rep. Justin Pizzulli (R-Scioto County) and Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati), received a near unanimous yes vote. Meanwhile, SR 214, sponsored by Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) and Sen. Andy Brenner (R-Delaware), received a unanimous yes vote. During session, several members from both sides of the political aisle in from each chamber delivered passionate speeches regarding the need to condemn the violent acts committed.
Members of the Ohio Redistricting Committee asked the Ohio Supreme Court to dismiss a challenge to the adopted statehouse maps. Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) stated the unanimous vote in favor of the new maps by the Ohio Redistricting Committee negates the arguments from challengers. They also added the lawsuit does not present a redistricting challenge, but instead focuses on the previous partisan votes of the commission and the process that led to map adoption. Challengers to the newly adopted maps have not only asked the Ohio Supreme Court to reject the motion to dismiss the case, but also to reject the maps entirely – citing extreme gerrymandering as the primary issue of the maps.
Unpacking the 2023 Elections
G2G sponsored a Columbus Metropolitan Club event that analyzed the results of the November elections where Issue 1 and Issue 2 were at the forefront of the conversation. The event featured several speakers including: Haley BeMiller, Political Reporter at USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau; Wendy Smooth, Ph.D., Professor, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and Senior Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence at The Ohio State University; Meredith Freedhoff, Chair of the Franklin County Republican Party; Julie Womack, Head of Organizing at Red, Wine & Blue; and host Julie Carr Smyth, Government & Politics Reporter at The Associated Press. The discussion was interesting and focused on messaging and communications as well as fundraising that made the difference in determining the outcomes. The panelists did not want to predict what this means for 2024, but all expect that U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown will have a tough re-election. Deciphering what this indicates for the upcoming presidential election in 2024 is still to be determined, however, Trump maintains strong support in the state. See the event here.
Impact Ohio Post-Election 2023 Event
G2G attended the 2023-Post Election Impact Ohio event at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The event held panels surrounding the critical aspects of the November elections and how that impacts the future of Ohio. One of the panels focused on the future of cannabis-related policy in Ohio, which must be figured out soon given the passage of Issue 2. Conversations on how Ohio’s economy, law enforcement, and healthcare systems will be impacted by cannabis legalization were abundant and mostly filled with questions. Another panel concentrated on what the approval of Issue 1 means for the political landscape in Ohio and if this means Ohio is moving from a red to a purple state once again. Panelists spoke about how the enshrining of reproductive rights in Ohio Constitution may affect future elections and how the state legislature may react to diminish or reverse Issue 1. As with the other event, all agree the 2024 U.S. senate election will be expensive and competitive.