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Weekly Advocacy Update


Weekly Advocacy Update

January 11, 2009



 A committee to find ways of making exchange of health care information smoother has delivered its report to the General Assembly. In the report, the committee recommends it should continue to meet to shepherd along its recommendations and do further study. Lawmakers created the Advisory Committee on Eligibility and Real-Time Claim Adjudication in 127-HB125 (Huffman) to study standardization of how health care organizations swap data electronically, in the hopes of seeing big costs savings. The committee began meeting in the summer.



 Richard Cordray was sworn in this week as the state's attorney general, following his November election to replace Marc Dann, who was forced to resign last year. Cordray inherits negotiations with the two women who filed the complaints that sparked the sexual harassment scandal that toppled Dann, after Nancy Rogers, whom Gov. Ted Strickland appointed to oversee the office between Dann's resignation and the election, failed to reach an agreement with them. While the women are seeking $400,000 apiece plus $100,000 for attorney's fees and the AG's office has reportedly offered "a couple hundred thousand," their attorney says the dispute primarily relates to their having secure jobs and assurance there would be no retaliation.



 The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) released the preliminary figures for tax revenues in December, which came in $24.5 million below the estimates just updated Dec. 19. Effectively, all of that shortfall could be attributed to a $27.3 million shortfall in the non-auto sales tax, although other taxes including the personal income tax and domestic insurance were also down.



 The Clean Ohio Fund is being streamlined in 2009 to allow for faster and more efficient funding to interested parties, with an emphasis on small and minority-owned businesses. The Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund and Clean Ohio Assistance Fund programs provide grants for environmental cleanup and demolition at brownfield properties. Seventy-two Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund and 117 Clean Ohio Assistance Fund projects to date have yielded more than $215 million in grants to over 76 communities in Ohio.

 The Ohio Department of Development (ODOD) is prioritizing small business growth with a new Small Business Hotline. A Small Business Directory and Small Business Register are free to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs, including displaced workers and those living below the poverty line who may be interested in starting a business. 



Ohio's new state superintendent of education, Deborah Delisle, told Hannah News, "I believe people can reach consensus on what an adequate education is, though I'm not necessarily fond of that word. What I fear is that people will view 'adequate' as very specific - 12 courses students have to take and schools have to offer - and not go beyond that," she said, offering her own definition. "An adequate system of education is where children

are effectively engaged in the learning process, and where teachers receive the professional development to provide that culture of learning."


A new report, Quality Counts 2009, published by Education Week, said Ohio's education system had improved over the last year, moving the state from seventh to sixth in a grading system based on indicators ranging from a student's chance to succeed to school finance. The report also looked at how states are handling non-English speaking students for the first time.


The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Math) Subcommittee of the Partnership for Continued Learning, chaired by Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, announced FY09 recipients of Ohio STEM Schools and K-8 STEM Programs of Excellence awards. The state's $2.85 million investment in STEM schools for middle school and high school students and $3.12 million investment in STEM programs for students in grades kindergarten through 8th grade are designed to strengthen Ohio's competitiveness in STEM disciplines.



Sen. Jon Husted (R-Kettering) appeared before the Montgomery County Board of Elections to face questions over whether or not he lives in the Kettering home that he claims as his residence or at the home in Upper Arlington where his wife lives. He did not dispute that he spends "a considerable amount of time in Columbus" but argued that Ohio's residency law has distinctions for those employed by the state.




The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) continued its support of Clean Fuels Ohio with the awarding of a $77,000 grant to support the "Green Fleets 2009: Driving Economic and Environmental Benefits for Ohio through Green Transportation Policies and Performance" initiative. This includes education efforts on the economic and environmental benefits that can be realized through the use of cleaner fuels in the transportation sector.



Committee assignments for Ohio's freshman Democratic congressional representatives were announced: U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge (Warrensville Heights) was appointed to the Education and Labor Committee; Steve Driehaus (Cincinnati) and Mary Jo Kilroy (Columbus) to the Financial Services Committee; and John Boccieri (Alliance) to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.




Attorney General Nancy Rogers joined attorneys general from 21 others states and the District of Columbia in asking Congress to change federal bankruptcy laws to better protect families with homes in foreclosure. Amendments they proposed would require homeowners under a court-order loan modification to make payments on the home's secured value, while the mortgage company would have to take a loss on any unsecured debt that exceeds the home's value. The state officials said they don't expect such changes would spur a glut of bankruptcy filings.


Rogers also announced the details of a final settlement with Countrywide Financial Corporation late in 2008. Under the agreement, filed in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, Ohio will receive $4.39 million as its share of a $150 million nationwide settlement with Countrywide. Approximately 8,000 Ohio homeowners will be eligible for loan modifications, and an additional 4,000 Ohioans will be eligible for foreclosure relief payments.



Gov. Ted Strickland said this week that reason dictates he must at least consider the possibility of casino gambling in light of the state's economic woes, which he termed "unprecedented." He stressed he has not changed his mind about gambling, but he also believes "it is unreasonable for an individual to shut out arguments or points of view which may not be consistent with those that I currently hold."



The Senate opened its first session of the 128th General Assembly on Monday, with Sen. Bill Harris (R-Ashland) beginning his third and final term as president with a call for civility and cooperation. Both caucuses formalized the leadership selections they'd made during the lame duck session, and Democrats seated newly appointed senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Austintown), who replaces former Sen. John Boccieri (D-Alliance), who was elected to Congress.

House Democrats took control of the chamber Monday for the first time in 14 years, with former House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering) passing the gavel to new Speaker Armond Budish (D-Beachwood), who gave a light-hearted acceptance speech with undertones of difficult issues ahead. Budish called a potential $7 billion hole in the state budget "almost beyond belief." He also pledged to work in a bipartisan manner with House Republican Leader William Batchelder (R-Medina), who seconded Budish's nomination. Budish said he is also starting what he hopes will become a tradition used in other states by naming a House clerk from the majority party - Tom Sherman - and a deputy clerk from the minority party of the chamber - former House Clerk Laura Clemens.

Sherman worked under former Speaker Vern Riffe and most recently served as a government relations officer for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS). Clemens began as assistant clerk in the Ohio House for the 122nd General Assembly. She has been House clerk for every General Assembly since the 123rd.


Both majority caucuses have said their priorities will be clear following retreats the week of Jan. 12. Also, following those retreats, committee structure and assignments will be released in both houses.


Gov. Ted Strickland has made good on his promise to scuttle election law changes in SB380 (Seitz), tax-funded veterans' bonuses in HB649 (Hottinger) and motion picture tax credits in HB196 (Patton), vetoing the measures Tuesday. The legislation was among a group of 39 bills forwarded to the governor in the final days of the 127th General Assembly. In his veto message, Strickland reiterated his previous comments that election issues raised in SB380 were misplaced in an abbreviated session of the Ohio Legislature, also echoing comments from Democratic Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner.



 The Buckeye Institute's Center for Transparent and Accountable Government Monday released an online database of Ohio State University employees earning more than $250,000 a year. The database can be searched in its entirety or viewed in four segments - administrative staff, sports staff, professors and medical staff.



 Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Maureen O'Connor will begin their third and second full terms, respectively, with their swearing-in ceremony set for Monday, Jan. 12 at the Ohio Supreme Court. Stratton was originally appointed by then-Gov. George Voinovich in 1996 to fill the unexpired term of former Justice Craig Wright and was elected to her first six-year term later that November. O'Connor won election to her first term against Democrat Timothy Black in 2002.



The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on two of seven lawsuits filed following passage of Sen. Tim Grendell's 126-SB82, which allowed the Legislature to override home rule control of municipal workers based on constitutional guarantees for the "general welfare of all employees." In four of the cases, the appeals court found the new law unconstitutional while two appeals court found the state override of home-rule residency laws to be constitutional. A seventh case is being held pending the Supreme Court's decision.



Kevin Boyce was sworn in as state treasurer this week, succeeding Richard Cordray, who became attorney general.



 FirstEnergy Corp. completed what the company calls a successful competitive bidding process on Jan. 2 that would supply power to customers of its Ohio utilities - Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company (CEI) and Toledo Edison. In a filing with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), the Ohio Consumer and Environmental Advocates (OCEA) requested transparency in the company's auction bids. If or when these rates will be used has yet to be determined.



Ohio retail heavyweights Frisch's Big Boy and United Dairy Farmers (UDF) will not get the insurance rebates they had demanded from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) based on previous state surpluses, says the Ohio Supreme Court. The restaurant and convenience store chains had joined other self-insured companies in claiming the right to premium discounts or "dividend credits" as former BWC participants, but the court said Tuesday that Frisch's and UDF were trying to have it both ways.



According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), the composite index of leading indicators for Ohio decreased 0.3 percent to 94.8 in November. This decline in the indicator is suggesting weak employment growth in the winter. The valuation of permits for new housing construction and the average workweek of production workers in manufacturing decreased, while the initial claims for unemployment insurance increased in November.

2008 -- Provided by
The Hannah Report - A Publication of Rotunda, Inc. & Hannah News Service



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