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Ohio legislative update

10/5/2020
Overview

We are just one month out from the 2020 General Election! Ohio could turn the presidential election and has several interesting races that could flip congressional seats as well as statehouse seats. Following the election, there will be a lame duck session in Columbus for the 133rd General Assembly. G2G’s discussions with leadership indicate the Capital Budget bill, which was delayed due to the pandemic, may still be passed and become law during lame duck. While 2021 will likely look different in the legislature as the Democrats may flip at least one seat in the Senate and three in the House, most other seats will likely remain the same. It is unknown if the just-elected Speaker Cupp will be able to hold onto his position. Many think Reps. Seitz and Carfagna are possible challengers. On the Senate side, President Obhof is term-limited and his likely replacement will be Senator Matt Huffman. In lame duck, it is expected President Obhof will bring forth many bipartisan bills to end his term.

More information on COVID, Elections, Health, Education, and Business are below.

EVENTS

G2G has recently participated in several small online events with elected officials. In both an Election season and virtual world, these events can provide valuable insights on election strategy as well as what may be lame duck priorities.

  • U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) — In a roundtable with Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) and State Senator Nicki Antonio (D-Lakewood), Senator Sherrod Brown was the special guest. They discussed the elections and how get out the vote is the key focus right now as Ohio is a dead heat for the presidential election as well as some key state races. Senator called out Rep. Chabot’s seat as possibly being defeated by Kate Schroder, who has raised a lot of money and attention on the national scale.
  • Congressman Dave Joyce (R-OH-14) — In a roundtable event, Joyce asked Ranking Member Cole (R-OK) to share insights from serving as Chair and now Ranking on the powerful Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. He talked about how the Republicans and Democrats are united in increasing funding year after year for NIH research. He expressed frustration with the lack of deal on another COVID package and said partisanship is severe, and that was before the presidential debate.
  • State Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) — He discussed the importance of finishing the Capital Budget bill in lame duck, moving federal CARES Act dollars out to those in need, working closely with Governor DeWine on COVID response initiative, and the importance of collaboration and getting things done as his top priorities in serving as the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee.
  • Cleveland City Councilman Blaine Griffin — In a small roundtable event with Councilman Blaine Griffin, Chair of the Health & Human Services Committee for Cleveland, he discussed his intention to undertake more initiatives to put kids first and address health disparities in Cleveland, his interest in police reform but not to “defund the police,” and efforts toward wealth creation for the residents of Cleveland.  He is exploring a run for Mayor of Cleveland in 2021.
  • Ohio OBM Deputy Director Dan Baker — He shared Ohio is in not in bad shape fiscally at the beginning of FY21 even with the pandemic fall out. This is a result of a big bounce back in spending in June-July after lockdowns, however, the further we get into FY21 there could be a slowdown resulting in more budget shortfalls and without another federal COVID package our state budget could be in trouble.
  • Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken — She discussed the seats the Republicans believe they may lose this year but does not believe there will be a large fallout from the former Speaker Householder scandal earlier this year as many outside of Columbus do not know who Householder is. Donors are still comfortable giving to Ohio House candidates and fundraising events continue.
  • Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper — He spoke on the possible gains for Democrats this election cycle. Statehouse candidates are close in districts that 4-6 years ago would not have been taken seriously for Democrats. These are mostly suburban districts where the candidates are women. Additionally, the combination of the Householder scandal, the activity of the Lincoln Project, and Ohio’s high number of swing voters, may lead to even bigger pickups for the Democrats than expected.
  • Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley — He shared that the City of Cleveland is “bending but not breaking” by the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the city.  He believes the city will make it through the end of 2020 at the current pace with no layoffs, but if the crisis continues at the same pace, the City will have to make some difficult decisions.  The lack of entertainment taxes in the City is hurting significantly. Council President Kelley also discussed the need to address the digital divide, and community health inequity.
  • COVID-19 in Ohio - Over the past few months, G2G has participated in several calls with legislators spanning from Rep. Sandra Williams in Cleveland to Rep. Randi Clites in Ravenna to Rep. Jim Butler in Dayton and is hearing a lot of interest in getting the state back on track while remaining cautious of COVID limitations.
LATEST COVID-19 INFORMATION
Case Trends

Case numbers have increased recently, likely in part to the return of many students to college campuses, but also in rural counties. The top 14 counties in terms of cases per 100,000 residents are rural, and eleven counties are currently level three: Putnam, Mercer, Montgomery, Butler, Hamilton, Clermont, Pike, Scioto, Delaware, Muskingum, Richland, and Ashland. In early COVID days, counties with the largest populations: Franklin, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton were continuously amongst the level three counties but, due to swift action, have now reduced exposure.

Ohio State University and the Ohio Health Department conducted research in July and found that nearly 1% of the population had an active case of COVID-19, and 1.5% had antibodies indicating a previous coronavirus infection. The prevalence of cases in adult Ohioans is relatively low, only 0.9%, which corresponds to about 80,000 adults, had active infections, and 1.5%, which is about 130,000 adults, had evidence of antibodies during testing in July. However, this also means that Ohioans are still very susceptible to the virus.

Cares Act Funding

The Ohio Controlling Board recently voted to disburse $350M of CARES Act funds previously allocated by the Ohio General Assembly:

  • $141.6M to supplement the state’s unemployment program
  • $81.5M to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to expand the state’s COVID-19 testing capabilities
  • $45M to the ODJFS for the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act to promote job creation
  • $31M to the Departments of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Higher Education, and Education to address the behavioral health impacts of COVID-19
  • $15.2M in relief payments for Adult Day Care and Senior Centers
  • $10M direct loan to reopen the Regional Hospitals
  • $1.1M to the Secretary of State’s office for to promote election education to the public
  • $120,000 to upgrade existing employment systems to accommodate women-owned and veteran-friendly businesses

The Ohio House also sent legislation to DeWine’s desk that includes the state’s remaining $650M in federal CARES Act dollars. Some House Democrats criticized the bill’s chosen funding mechanism, which allocates the CARES money on a per-capita basis rather than by the Local Government formula used in in other previous Controlling Board disbursements. In conversations with leadership, G2G has learned that, while a large portion of money remains unallocated, it is likely that it is being saved for continued contact tracing and testing. G2G is closely monitoring any allocations and is in talks with leadership about allocating funding to non-profits and other human service organizations that are in desperate need of funding.

Ohio Department of Health

In early September, DeWine announced that Dr. Joan Duwve, Director of Public Health for South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, would be taking the position of ODH Director, following Dr. Amy Acton’s resignation in June. Only hours later, Dr. Duwve withdrew her name from consideration citing the treatment of Dr. Acton and stating her family was off limits. The position of Director remains vacant.

The Ohio Senate passed SB 311(Roegner-McColley), which would forbid an Ohio governor from issuing a general statewide or regional quarantine order against those who have not been exposed to or diagnosed with a dangerous disease. In other words, it would prevent the issuance of “stay at home” orders like the one imposed earlier this year. It also would allow the General Assembly to rescind public health orders designed to prevent the spread of a contagious or infectious disease by adopting a concurrent resolution. Additionally, the bill removes language from current law providing ODH with “ultimate” authority in matters of quarantine and isolation. After a lengthy debate on the Senate floor, the bill passed by a vote of 20-12 with Senators Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), Lehner (R-Kettering) and Kunze (R-Hilliard) joining all Democrats in voting against it. The bill now goes to the House; however, Governor DeWine has said he would veto it.

Testing

The DeWine administration has continued to try to make testing as widespread as possible in Ohio. The state continues efforts with the National Guard in long-term care facilities and pop-up tests that focus on underserved areas. Retail partners have been encouraged to offer testing in minute clinics and similar facilities. The state is now considering how to deploy recently acquired antigen tests, and a new testing method that uses saliva rather than nasal swabs is being evaluated for accuracy. DeWine has also held firm on the notion that people should be able to get tested regardless of whether they show symptoms of the virus. Due to participation in the multi-state compact to buy tests, Ohio will receive millions of Abbott's BinaxNOW COVID-19 tests in the coming weeks and months. These tests are easy to perform and include the nasal swab as well as a companion smart phone app for patients. The administration will continue to work on a plan to best incorporate them into Ohio’s overall testing strategy. DeWine praised Abbott for its ingenuity in making a rapid, low-cost test available to so many Ohioans.

elections
Races to Watch

G2G is closely watching the races in Ohio as the 2020 general election quickly approaches.

Presidential — The latest polling suggests the presidential race in Ohio will be a dead heat between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden even after the first presidential debate took place in Cleveland on September 29th.

Congressional Recent polling shows Rep. Steve Chabot’s (R-OH-1) race to be in a ‘toss-up’ category. His opponent, Kate Schroder of Cincinnati, is a health care advocate and cancer survivor.

Statehouse— Recent conversations that G2G has had with state party leaders suggest the following races will be some of the most competitive in the state, many of which are located in suburban areas and where the opponents are women:

  • Ohio Senate
  • Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), Opponent: Crystal Lett
  • Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), Opponent: Tom Jackson
  • Ohio House
  • Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City), Opponent: Pastor Nancy Day‐Achauer
  • Rep. DJ Swearengin (R-Huron), Opponent: Alexis Miller
  • Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), Opponent: Joan Sweeny
  • Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake), Opponent: Monique Smith
Drop Box Debacle

In a continuing saga of the legality of drop boxes for absentee ballots in Ohio, a Franklin County judge granted the Ohio Democratic Party's (ODP) motion to prevent Secretary of State Frank LaRose from enforcing his directive limiting counties to only one drop box for absentee ballots per county. The judge issued the ruling saying that the directive from LaRose limiting the number of drop boxes per county was "arbitrary and unreasonable." However, the judge did not grant an ODP motion to instruct LaRose to enforce the directive, noting previous support by LaRose of multiple drop boxes as well as another ongoing lawsuit in federal court. The judge suggested that LaRose may voluntarily follow the ruling based on previous statements.

Early Voting

Early voting in Ohio begins on Tuesday, October 6th and runs until the day before Election Day. Check with your county board of elections for early voting times. If you have requested an absentee ballot, they should begin to be mailed out on October 6th. Please remember to carefully read and follow all directions. This is certainly a year where every vote will be crucial! If you have not requested a ballot, you have until 12:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 31st to do so.

PPE Distribution

The Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) will be working with Secretary of State LaRose to ensure that Ohio's 88 boards of elections have the personal protective equipment needed to execute early in-person voting and voting on election day. DAS will help procure and provide an estimated 800,000 masks, 64,000 face shields, and 26,000 gowns.

health
Medicaid Overhaul

DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) opened a new application for businesses interested in providing managed care plans for children and adults within the Medicaid program. The request for applications (RFA) represents a major step toward advancing the state’s Medicaid program. It is an evolutionary upgrade – the first structural change since the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s (CMS) approval of Ohio’s program in 2005. ODM’s 21st-century managed care program will prioritize the individual as the focus of care, optimize real-time health data with advanced, personalized care methods and value-added incentives that go beyond the status quo to deliver Ohio the best value in quality health care. The RFA was developed following an 18-month campaign that garnered nearly 1,100 pieces of feedback from providers, members, advocates, health care and government leaders, including listening sessions across Ohio.

The solicitation includes a series of qualitative questions requiring respondents to provide examples of how they would address current issues related to the Medicaid managed care program including providing person-centered care, serving children with complex needs, developing and executing a population health strategy, and simplifying/streamlining administrative processes. The request for application will be posted until Friday, Nov. 20. Bidders can learn more about the managed care procurement process and goals here. G2G is monitoring this development closely; should you apply please let us know.

Medicaid Telehealth Services

ODM is also moving to expand telehealth services, filing permanent rules on the subject after several months of allowing greater use of telehealth on an emergency basis because of the pandemic. The agency has overwhelming support from patients and providers based on their experience using telehealth during the pandemic. The rules will extend flexibility at least through the pandemic; going beyond that will depend on whether the federal government allows continued flexibility.

Cancer Care

At a recent virtual meeting of the Ohio Cancer Caucus, members heard that as many as 79% of cancer patients in active treatment have seen delays in health care, while 80% of patients reported a change or delay in preventive cancer care including screenings due to the ongoing pandemic. In addition, cancer screenings and diagnoses saw marked decreases, with March cancer screenings showing a 94% drop from the previous year following suspensions of non-essential medical procedures. July cancer screenings were 36% lower when compared to the previous year. As a result, new cancer diagnoses have fallen by 46%, not due to a widespread decrease in cancer, but due to a decrease in cancers being detected in screenings. G2G recently hosted a Virtual Rare Cancer Congressional Briefing, sharing stories from patients and patient advocates and updates and statistics from scientists and clinicians with Congressional offices and federal agencies. G2G cares deeply about this issue and monitors the Ohio Cancer Caucus closely.

education
Upcoming Budget

State Board of Education members are urging greater efforts to hold early childhood education funding at near current levels when expected budget cuts hit in the coming biennium. Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria and ODE budget chief Aaron Rausch have proposed draft budget scenarios for submission to the Office of Budget and Management (OBM), one of which shows how the department would address being funded at 90% of the already reduced FY21 funding levels; while the other details a “continuing” budget scenario.

In the 90% scenario, ODE eliminated all legislative earmarks, eliminated one-time expenses, reprioritized funding to protect priority areas and reduced operating line items by 10%. The line item coming in for the smallest cut is early childhood education funding for preschool programs, slated for a 2.3% reduction, a reflection of the board’s consensus position that it’s a top priority. Intel from budget staff and legislators shows that it is still very unknown what the FY22-21 budget will look like with the fallout from the pandemic.

School Meal Flexibility

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently said it will extend flexibility for distributing school meals amid the pandemic through year’s end but does not have enough money to extend them through the entire school year. The waiver extension has been approved through December or until funding runs out and includes the following Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) flexibilities:

  • Allowing SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost.
  • Permitting meals to be served outside of the typically required group settings and mealtimes.
  • Waiving meal pattern requirements as necessary.
  • Allowing parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.
IMAP Program

Lt. Governor Jon Husted, who serves as Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, announced that Ohioans can now access training at no cost through 12 training providers under the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP). Following the July application period, 12 training providers including community colleges, universities, Ohio technical centers, private providers, and non-profits received awards through IMAP. These providers will offer training for 71 short-term, industry-recognized, and technology-focused credentials to help upskill Ohioans for the increasingly tech-infused economy. Through IMAP, up to 1,694 Ohioans have the opportunity to earn a credential at no cost to them. Ohioans who are low income, partially unemployed, or totally unemployed can visit the IMAP here to work directly with the awarded training provider of their choice.

business
Innovate Ohio

The Innovate Ohio Executive Committee met recently to discuss items of interest. Attracting business and workers to Ohio is of top priority to the state at this. The new virtual world may actually be a benefit this attraction as it provides a strong opportunity to attract businesses to Ohio from areas with higher costs of living. The committee heard a presentation on combined state and local capital gains tax rates and return-on-investment for Columbus and competitor cities. The other cities in the presentation included Austin, Seattle and Nashville, which were below Columbus’ 3 % , and Ann Arbor, Denver, Chicago, Boston, Indianapolis, New York City and San Francisco. Most of the seven with higher rates were between 4.25 and 5.25%, with the exceptions of New York City at 12.7% and San Francisco at 13.3%. Some committee members raised questions about those findings, however, saying that venture capitalists and equity investors pay a higher rate as individuals rather than businesses.

Additionally, the Infrastructure Workgroup shared their efforts to improve rules on intellectual property ownership and tech transfer to enhance the profitability of research and development. InnovateOhio Deputy Director Mike Duffey also discussed the recent NASA “Ignite the Night” event focused on connecting Ohio tech companies and investors. Another subworkgroup has formed on gene and cell therapy which is recommending an integrated strategic plan as Columbus has a track record of successful gene therapy spin-offs particularly through Nationwide Children’s Research Hospital.

BWC Dividend

DeWine recently asked the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors to send up to $1.5B in dividend payments to Ohio employers this fall.  This dividend equals approximately 100% of the premiums paid in policy year 2019.  Dividends like this, as well as previous ones, are possible because of strong investment returns on employer premiums, a declining number of claims each year, prudent fiscal management, and employers who work hard to improve workplace safety and reduce injury claims.

Mahoning Valley Investments

General Motors will be required to invest $12M in the Mahoning Valley by the end of 2022 and return $28M to the state for closing its Lordstown assembly plant despite receiving $60.3M in job creation and retention tax credits. GM has invested $75M in the Lordstown Motors Company, which purchased the shuttered plant to use for electric truck production. Vice President Mike Pence and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) were part of a delegation at Lordstown Motors Corporation earlier this summer for an unveiling of its new all-electric “Endurance” truck model, which also recently debuted during an event at the White House as President Trump continues to campaign on manufacturing wins during his Presidency.

Minimum Wage

Ohio’s minimum wage is scheduled to increase on Jan. 1, 2021 to $8.80 per hour for non-tipped employees and to $4.40 per hour for tipped employees. The minimum wage will apply to employees of businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $323,000 per year. For employees at smaller companies with annual gross receipts of $250,000 or less per year after Jan. 1, 2021, and for 14- and 15-year-olds, the state minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. For these employees, the state wage is tied to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which requires an act of Congress and the president’s signature to change.

The current 2020 Ohio minimum wage is $8.70 per hour for non-tipped employees and $4.35 for tipped employees. The 2020 Ohio minimum wage applies to employees of businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $319,000 per year. Employers can access the 2021 Minimum Wage poster for display in their places of business by visiting the Ohio Department of Commerce’s website.

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