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March 31, 2022

Ohio Legislative Update

Last Updated: March 31, 2022

OVERVIEW

The state legislature is now on Spring Break and scheduled to return around mid-May. At that time, we hope to see a Capital Budget Bill introduced and quickly moved through the legislative process to pass before summer. Redistricting continues to be top of mind for legislators. Because the General Assembly maps are still not approved, Ohio will have two primaries. The May 3rd primary will have statewide and Congressional candidates on the ballot. The Ohio House and Senate primary will be held at a later date, likely August 2nd. However, the maps seem to have caused one incumbent to announce his retirement this week: Congressman Bob Gibbs. Finally, Governor DeWine held his first State of the State in House Chambers with an audience since 2019 on March 23, highlighting Ohio’s successes and his continued plans and priorities. See G2G's full report on Ohio politics, legislative activities, and pending legislation impacting business, education, workforce, and health.

Ohio Legislature

State of the State
In the DeWine’s State of the State, he first took a victory lap on priorities and good news from his first three years in office, including the Intel chip manufacturing announcement, water quality investments through H2Ohio and support for child welfare and health. He then turned to plans for the investments in mental health, parks, and Appalachia, as well as advocacy for enactment of new laws on public safety and crime.

DeWine’s first priority is improvements to Ohio’s community mental health treatment capacity stating the system isn’t broken so much as it was never built in the first place, despite promises made in decades past. Next were the state parks and natural areas, something he said Ohioans “rediscovered” amid the pandemic. He stated he will ask lawmakers to reinvest in the state park system. Further, he pledged to work with lawmakers and community leaders on efforts to boost Appalachia to revitalize and rebuild the economies and the Main Streets of the area where Ohio began. Initiatives will address the likes of downtown redevelopment, broadband expansion, workforce development, education, and addiction services.

The governor also called for action on a few specific legislative proposals already under consideration in the General Assembly focused on public safety and crime. He urged lawmakers to enact HB283 (Abrams-Lampton), which would broaden distracted driving prohibitions and boost penalties. He also expressed support for efforts from Reps. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) on police accountability and transparency and urged lawmakers to take up the recommendations of a commission formed to study a long-term funding source for police training. Finally, he urged adoption of proposals to increase penalties on repeat violent offenders who continue to use guns to commit crimes despite its being illegal for them even to possess one.

He spent little time on the COVID-19 pandemic but did recognize the sacrifices of health care workers, teachers, front line employees of businesses and the Ohio National Guard. DeWine also paid tribute to the late Speaker of the House Bill Batchelder, inviting Judge Alice Batchelder, his wife of several decades, and other family members to come forward.

Capital Reappropriations
Office of Budget and Management Director Kimberly Murnieks provided House Finance Committee with an overview of the proposed FY23-24 reappropriations bill (HB 597), which totals $2.09 billion -- an amount that is higher than usual because the FY21-22 capital appropriations had been enacted six months later than is typical. Pandemic-related contract delays, supplier shortages and supply chain disruptions reduced the timeframe for those projects, which is why they are being reappropriated.

Reappropriation is necessary due to the constitutional provision that limits appropriations to two years. To reconcile this constitutional limitation with the reality that many capital projects require several years to complete, the reappropriation of the unspent balance of capital projects is necessary each biennium. This bill is not a vehicle for new appropriations nor is it intended to raise new issues. The amounts in the bill are estimates, with the totals revised when the bill goes into effect on July 1 to reflect any expenditures that are made between now and then. The House has passed HB 597 and the Senate must pass the bill by March 31st to go into the effect by the beginning of the fiscal year, which is July 1st.

Business

Workplace Safety Grants
The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) announced it will provide $30 million in grants for research and development of personal protective equipment (PPE) innovations enhancing workplace safety, to be administered through the new Workforce Safety Innovation Center (WSIC). Data collected from BWC claims will be used to identify “priority areas of focus” to reduce the frequency and severity of on-the-job injuries. The WSIC will encourage relationships among higher education, research, and industry, helping grant applicants conduct proof-of-concept work to accelerate creation of new technologies and applications. Applicants must be Ohio nonprofit higher education institutions or research organizations. More information is available here.

Education

Intel Corp.
As part of efforts to build the necessary manufacturing workforce, Intel will directly invest $50 million in grants to Ohio higher education institutions over the next 10 years and another $50 million for educational collaboration nationwide, to be matched by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). This is part of Intel’s total $20 billion investment for semiconductor factories in Ohio. The Intel “Semiconductor Education and Research Program for Ohio” will fund multi-institutional research and education on semiconductor fabrication. The program will be open to Ohio-based higher education entities and staff including technical centers, academic researchers, faculty, and other educators. It can be used to address curriculum development; faculty training; laboratory equipment upgrades; novel research to advance semiconductor fabrication; and student opportunities including internships.

The $100 million combined national effort will seek proposals from researchers and educators across the U.S. to develop curriculum that improves STEM education at two-year colleges and four-year universities, including minority-serving institutions, and supports novel research on semiconductors. It will also be open to Ohio institutions. This will provide at least $5 million in grants per year for 10 years.

Backpack Bill
The House Finance Committee heard HB290, the "backpack" bill from Reps. Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) and Marilyn John (R-Shelby), which proposes to put into place an education program where state educational dollars will follow the child. McClain said the bill has been in development for a year.
Both sponsors stressed their intent is to put the child at the center of the education puzzle, with their proposal allowing parents to choose the best educational setting for their student. The program would be "opt in," with parents choosing to set up an Educational Savings Account (ESA) under the Ohio Treasurer of State where they would have access to reimbursement of $5,500/year for students in kindergarten through eighth grade or $7,500 for those in grades nine through 12. The funds could be used on a variety of education expenses such as the following:

  • Tuition and fees at a participating school.
  • Tuition and fees for a nonpublic online learning program.
  • Tutoring or intervention services by an individual or educational facility, provided that the services are not provided by an immediate family member of the student.
  • Fees for nationally standardized assessments, advanced placement examinations, and any examinations related to college or university admission, as well as tuition or fees for preparatory courses for those.
  • Tuition and fees for programs of study or the curriculum of courses that lead to an industry-recognized credential that satisfies a workforce need.
  • Educational services including occupational, behavioral, physical, speech-language and audiology therapies.
  • Curriculum, textbooks, instructional materials and supplies.
  • Fees for after-school and summer educational programs.

The fiscal mechanism for operating the program would reside with the state treasurer, who would handle questions on the bill asked why the Legislature would pass this right after having just approved, after four years' work, the six-year Fair School Funding plan and what happens to the child if the private school won't take him or her or sends the child back to the public school for behavioral issues. Democrats mostly oppose the bill and Republicans have varied support on the bill.

Politics & Elections

Redistricting
After the 3rd set of Ohio General Assembly maps were struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court, the Redistricting Commission was given 10 days to draw new maps and ordered to do so in public. The commission chose to hire out-of-state independent mapmakers to draw the 4th iteration of the maps. However, at the last minute, majority Republicans on the commission gave up on finishing maps worked on over five days by independent mapmakers and instead chose to pass a new version of the 3rd redistricting plan rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court 10 days before.

The new map passed the commission by a vote of 4-3, with Auditor Keith Faber again joining the Democratic members of the commission in opposing it. According to House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), two competitive Democratic House districts and one competitive Senate district from the previous plan became safer in the new version.

The commission's actions came two days ahead of a federal court hearing on a lawsuit filed by activists seeking to get the court to order the use of a map rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court for the Tuesday, May 3 primary. The move to adopt a "fail safe" plan came from Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) who argued that as of early Monday evening, the day of the deadline, the commission had not seen a complete Ohio Senate plan and an Ohio House plan that they could verify is constitutional. Instead, he moved to order the mapmakers, including the caucus mapmakers, to make changes to the third plan struck down by the Court to comply with its opinion. Parties have already filed lawsuits on this map attesting they are unconstitutional and did not follow the court’s ruling to start a map from scratch.

A three-judge federal panel decided against intervening in the state's process for creating General Assembly maps until the "drop dead" date of Wednesday, April 20. A map is needed by that date to successfully run a primary on Tuesday, Aug 2nd, which is the last date to run a primary and still be ready for the November 8 General Election.

Polling
Significant percentages of likely voters from both parties are still undecided in the upcoming primary elections for U.S. Senate and governor, according to a new poll from Emerson College and The Hill. The survey shows:
In the U.S. Senate Race:

  • 39% of Republican primary voters are undecided in the race for U.S. Senate
  • Mike Gibbons leads the Republican primary with 22% and Former Treasurer of State Josh Mandel is second with 15%
  • Author J.D. Vance has support from 8% of likely Republican primary voters, while Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken each get 6%.
  • Portman recently endorsed Jane Timken to succeed him. However, his endorsement might have hurt Timken’s chances, because 38% of GOP voters said that makes them less likely to support her.
  • On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles) leads with 31%, while tech executive Traci Johnson has 8.6% and attorney/community organizer Morgan Harper gets 3.7%.
  • However, 51% of likely Democratic voters are undecided.

In Ohio Governor’s Race:

  • 36% of likely Republican voters are undecided in the gubernatorial race.
  • Gov. Mike DeWine leads Republican candidates with 34%, followed by farmer Joe Blystone with 20% and former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) with 9%.
  • 69% of likely Democratic voters are undecided.
  • Former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley each received support from 16% of likely voters.