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Ohio legislative update

Listen to G2G's Discussion with State Legislators & OBM Director on the Ohio State Budget & Beyond

As an historic election season comes to a close, this legislative update will focus on the Ohio general election results, what we foresee arising through the end of 2020, and predictions for 2021. The legislature is back in session for what will be a busy lame duck season. Please see below for elections, legislature, COVID-19, health, and business updates. For a deeper look at the federal elections, please see G2G’s Federal Legislative Update.

2020 General Election Results

The Nov. 3rd general election was historic for Ohio. Unofficial results show a record-setting Election Day turnout, as 5,812,804 Ohioans voted, surpassing the previous record set in 2008 when 5,773,777 ballots were cast. When this number was released, there were still 155,188 outstanding absentee ballots and 156,331 provisional ballots that will likely send this election’s total even higher.

Ohio is changing. What was once a solid swing state is becoming more and more red. Areas that were solidly blue only a few years ago, such as the Mahoning Valley, are now strongly red. Suburbs of Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus, that were once red areas are now turning blue. Most are not surprised that Trump took Ohio. Since 1860, Ohio has voted for the winning candidate, except for Grover Cleveland in both 1884 and 1892, Franklin D Roosevelt in 1944, John F. Kennedy in 1960, and now Joe Biden in 2020. Democrats believe the state does not reflect the will of the people due to extensive gerrymandering. Upon the release of the US census data, which is expected to decrease the congressional delegation by 1-2 House seats, Ohio is set to begin the redistricting of the state’s legislative and congressional districts maps under a pair of constitutional amendments approved by the state's voters. The last census and redistricting effort consolidated the districts of Rep. Kaptur in Toledo and Rep. Kucinich in Lakewood and ended Kucinich’s political career.

Federal Level

President: On Saturday, November 8th, four days after the General Election, former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner of the Presidential election. President-elect Biden’s win came at the hands of winning Michigan, Wisconsin, and finally Pennsylvania.

Congress: All 16 of Ohio’s incumbent members of the U.S. House of Representatives maintained their seats, defending their respective challengers.  The state’s closest races included:

1st Congressional District: Republican incumbent Steve Chabot of the Cincinnati area defended his seat against challenger Kate Schroder, scoring 52% of the total votes cast.

12th Congressional District: Republican incumbent Troy Balderson of the Central Ohio area defended his seat against challenger Alaina Shearer, scoring 55% of the total votes cast.13th Congressional District: Democrat incumbent Tim Ryan of the Youngstown area defended his seat against challenger Cristina Hagan in one of the state’s most hotly contested congressional races, scoring 52% of the total votes cast. The Mahoning Valley’s two remaining Democratic state seats where both picked off on Tuesday by the Republicans, making Ryan’s win more notable and likely a top target for redistricting.14th Congressional District: Republican incumbent Dave Joyce of the Cleveland area defended his seat against challenger Hillary O'Connor Mueri, scoring 60% of the total votes cast.

13th Congressional District: Democrat incumbent Tim Ryan of the Youngstown area defended his seat against challenger Cristina Hagan in one of the state’s most hotly contested congressional races, scoring 52% of the total votes cast. The Mahoning Valley’s two remaining Democratic state seats where both picked off on Tuesday by the Republicans, making Ryan’s win more notable and likely a top target for redistricting.14th Congressional District: Republican incumbent Dave Joyce of the Cleveland area defended his seat against challenger Hillary O'Connor Mueri, scoring 60% of the total votes cast.

14th Congressional District: Republican incumbent Dave Joyce of the Cleveland area defended his seat against challenger Hillary O'Connor Mueri, scoring 60% of the total votes cast.

State Level

Ohio Supreme Court: Two republican incumbents, Justices Sharron Kennedy and Judi French, sought reelection to the state’s highest court. Republican incumbent Sharron Kennedy defeated her Democrat challenger John O’Donnell, scoring 55% of the total votes cast. Republican incumbent Judi French lost her reelection bid to democrat challenger Jennifer Brunner. Following this election, the Ohio Supreme Court will lean 4-3 in favor of the GOP.

Statehouse: House Republicans were able to flip four Democratic seats on election night, while Democrats picked up one Cuyahoga County race. Senate Republicans picked off their top target in Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta). However, central Ohio’s hotly contested 16th Senate race is still too close to call and headed to an automatic recount. Given unofficial results at this time, the new makeup of the General Assembly is:

House: 65(R) - 34(D)

Senate: 24(R) - 8(D)

Notable races of the Ohio General Assembly:

6th Senate District: Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) defeated Democrat Mark Fogel. Antani spent three terms in the Ohio House before running for the Senate. Antani will replace Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering).

16th Senate District*: The race between incumbent Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Democrat Crystal Lett is too close to call. At this time, Kunze holds a 41 vote lead over Lett.

18th Senate District: Republican Jerry Cirino defeated Democrat Betsy Rader, succeeding term-limited Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon). Cirino is a retired health care executive, having worked as CEO of both Reichert Technologies and SourceOne Healthcare Technologies; he was also a Lake County commissioner.

24th Senate District: Republican incumbent Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) defeated Democrat Tom Jackson. Dolan chaired the Senate Finance Committee during the 133rd General Assembly, and during his previous three terms in the Ohio House, he chaired the House Finance Committee and we expect him to continue in this position in the next General Assembly.

32nd Senate District: Incumbent Sean O'Brien (D-Bazetta) lost his seat to Republican challenger Sandra O'Brien. Sean O'Brien served as Minority Whip in the Senate in the 133rd General Assembly. Sandra O'Brien ran on her experience as an educator and as Ashtabula County Auditor.

7th House District: Incumbent Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) defended his seat against Democratic challenger Joan Sweeny.

16th House District: Incumbent Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) lost to Democrat Monique Smith in the 16th House District. Greenspan chaired the House Finance Transportation Subcommittee during the 133rd General Assembly. Smith is a former Lakewood city councilwoman.

23rd House District: Incumbent Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) defeated her seat against challenger Nancy Day-Achauer to win the 23rd House District. Lanese serves as Assistant Majority Whip in the House.

28th House District: Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) defeated Chris Monzel (R) in the 28th House District. In 2018, Miranda won her seat, defeating incumbent Johnathan Dever by only 56 votes.

63th House District: Incumbent Gil Blair (D-Mineral Ridge) was defeated by Republican Mike Loychik in Trumbull and Ashtabula Counties.

64th House District: Incumbent Michael O'Brien (D-Warren) survived a strong challenge by Martha Yoder in Trumbull County.

75th House District: Incumbent Randi Clites (D-Ravenna) lost to Gail Pavliga (R) in Portage County.

89th Ohio House District: Incumbent D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) held his seat, beating Alexis Miller (D) in Erie and Ottawa Counties.

99th House District: Republican Sarah Fowler Arthur defeated Richard Dana (D) Ashtabula County. Fowler Arthur has served as an elected member of the Ohio State Board of Education since 2013. This seat was a pickup for House Republicans.

Ohio legislature
Lame Duck Priorities

As the election comes to a close, DeWine and legislative leaders have turned their focus to what will be a busy lame duck. Priority lame duck legislation may include passing a smaller version of the state’s capital projects bill, which was put on hold this spring due to the pandemic. G2G has heard from legislative leadership that this capital budget will only consider projects that were presented to legislators earlier this year and will seek to help those industries that were hurt by the pandemic. We also expect to see movement on efforts to repeal and replace HB 6, the scandal-plagued nuclear bailout bill.

Lt. Governor Husted has expressed his hopes for the passage of HB13 (Carfagna-O’Brien) which would create a residential broadband expansion program. DeWine has recently expressed his strong support for the Legislature to take up SB221 (Dolan), which contains his proposals to address gun violence. Additional education and licensure related issues are expected to be considered. What was previously called the “Cupp-Patterson Plan” for education reform will also likely make an appearance in lame duck.

Next GA Leadership

In the Ohio Senate, Majority Floor Leader Matt Huffman (R-Lima) was elected by his caucus unanimously on November 10th to become the next Senate President, replacing current Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) who did not seek reelection due to term limits. Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) will serve as president pro tempore; Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) will serve as majority floor leader; and Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) will serve as majority whip. Additionally, it seems that Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) will remain Speaker for the next General Assembly after an endorsement from Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) who was a rumored possible challenger for the position.

Record COVID Cases

Cases of COVID-19 are at record highs in Ohio. With days on end of record-breaking numbers of cases, we are now seeing over 5,000 cases per day with the highest number of cases at over 6,400. On the eve of the election, DeWine sent an open letter to all Ohioans, calling on them to remember even as the nation is experiencing a "deep divide" over the election, the state will need to come together immediately after to focus on fighting COVID-19. Ohio currently has 252,510 total cases and 5,285 confirmed deaths from COVID-19. A recent evening press conference from DeWine reminded Ohioans of the importance of wearing a mask and added additional requirements to the mask mandate. DeWine will also be making “significant changes” to large gathering rules and will revisit the possibility of closing bars, restaurants, and fitness centers again next week.

BWC Dividend Checks

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) will issue a $5B dividend to Ohio employers. The dividends will go out in the first and second weeks of December. In total, BWC has returned nearly $8B to Ohio employers through three dividends to help businesses during the pandemic, including $1.54B in late April and $1.34B in October.

New CARES Act Grants

Recently, at the request of DeWine, the Ohio Controlling Board approved spending of $419M in CARES Act funding for the below support programs. The latest round of grants is part of more than $3.3B in CARES Act relief dollars that have been distributed in Ohio to help with the prevention, relief and recovery efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Small Business Relief Program: $125M is being provided for grants to Ohio businesses of no more than 25 employees. This money can go to a “variety” of expenses, including mortgage, rent or utility payments; salary, wages or other employee compensation; business supplies and equipment; and certain other costs. The application for these funds can be found at:

Non-profit Relief: $25M is allocated to support Ohio’s non-profits. G2G is tracking the forthcoming details on the distribution of these funds.

Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund: Provides $38.7M for businesses with an on-premise consumption permit that are struggling due to the pandemic and limits on the full use of that permit. They can receive $2,500 per unique location and must have an active permit as of the close of business on Friday, Oct. 23.

Rent and Utility Assistance: $50M is being allocated to 47 community action agencies to provide rent, mortgage and water and/or sewer assistance to Ohioans in need. Ohio households at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines are eligible and can use the assistance to pay outstanding balances back to April 1, 2020.

Federal Government to Offer Provider Relief Funds

The Health Services Resource Administration (HRSA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) opened applications recently for a new round of Provider Relief Fund payments to assist health providers in addressing the pandemic. Providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments will be invited to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus. Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020, will also be invited to apply, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic will also be eligible for relief payments.

New ODH Director, Leadership Team

DeWine recently announced an "expanded executive team" in the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) just as Ohio nears 5,000 new COVID-19 cases per day. Ohio BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud will take over as the new Director of ODH. Interim Director Dr. Lance Himes will remain at the agency, now serving as Deputy Director, tasked to lead the coordination of the state’s vaccine distribution plan.

McCloud began her career as a staff attorney at BWC before serving as legal counsel to both former Governor George Voinovich and ODOT. She later joined the office of former Attorney General Jim Petro, first as senior deputy attorney general before advancing to chief counsel. McCloud is also a former Truro Township Trustee and active community leader. She served six years on the Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapists Board and was on the board of the Maryhaven behavioral health and addiction treatment center for more than a decade. McCloud earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University and a law degree from the Capital University Law School.

Additional leadership changes at ODH include a new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, who previously served for more than a decade as a Senior Vice President and as the Chief Medical Officer at OhioHealth. ODH will also add a new Chief of Staff, Kathleen Madden. Madden had previously served as Assistant Director at the Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and will now play a key role in keeping ODH's pandemic and non-pandemic programs and operations on track.

Ohio Unemployment Rate Falls

The state unemployment rate dropped to 8.4 percent in September, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said recently, down from 8.9 percent in August. ODJFS said the number of workers unemployed in Ohio in September was 472,000, down from 510,000 in August. The number of unemployed has increased by 232,000 in the past 12 months from 240,000, and the September unemployment rate is up from 4.1 percent in September 2019.

IP Promise First Year Successes

Lt. Gov. Husted recently outlined the successes achieved during the first year of the Ohio IP Promise. The initiative seeks to make Ohio’s universities hubs for innovation and entrepreneurialism by streamlining the process for guiding intellectual property through to commercialization. The Ohio IP Promise is operated jointly by InnovateOhio and the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Since its launch in 2019, the Ohio IP Promise has enabled the University of Cincinnati to generate a record 400 percent increase in startups spun out of UC intellectual property last year and a 1,000 percent increase this year. The Ohio State University now has more than 100 active startup companies in its portfolio, with the IP Promise making a direct and positive impact through the transparency, speed, and ease of engagement that it has driven.

CMS, Ohio Leaders Push for Children Support

In a recent CMS report on Children’s health amidst the pandemic, CMS found that between March and May 2020, there were 101,786 fewer child screening services, 70,663 fewer vaccinations for children under two, and 208,934 fewer dental services in Ohio compared to the same period in 2019. In responding to this report, state leaders such as LeeAnne Cornyn, who is the Director of Gov. DeWine’s children initiatives, has highlighted the need for continued investment in children's health, including mental health services, and in how children receive quality care from their schools. Other leaders such as Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) are supportive of more federal support for children's hospitals to address the shortfall caused by the pandemic. Nick Lashutka, president of the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association (OCHA), recently shared that the state’s six children’s hospitals have seen a total loss of approximately $500M as a result of suspending non-emergency procedures at the outset of the pandemic.

Child Vaccination

Responding to the recent drop in vaccination rates in children amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) said recently that it’s working with the five Medicaid managed care organizations to launch new initiatives meant to increase vaccination rates. ODM said the efforts are part of a series of population health initiatives designed to reduce COVID-19 spread, address unintended consequences of COVID prevention protocols and make use of telehealth to extend care access. According to ODM, three efforts are underway regarding child vaccinations:

  • Increasing mobile immunization capabilities
  • Providing outreach and scheduling support to Vaccines for Children (VFC) program providers for immunization
  • Expanding options for families to obtain vaccinations by growing the network of providers

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