The Legislative Update is brought to us by Liz Powell, Esq., MPH, Founder of G2G. Liz is an attorney with 20 years government experience, including as Legislative Director on Capitol Hill. She leads a team of bipartisan professionals that has raised over $50M, run advocacy campaigns and shaped CMS reimbursement for clients.
The 132nd General Assembly wrapped up later than usual holding their last session day on December 27th for veto override votes. After a quick break, the 133rd General Assembly swore in its members on January 7th. A typically ceremonial day ended with a shakeup in the House when members elected Larry Householder (R-Glenford) as Speaker of the House after a heated contest between him and former Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell). Over the next month, leadership teams changed in both the House and Senate and committee selections were made that were just finalized this week. Those updates and more are below.
G2G AT MAJOR EVENTS
G2G attended all of the Inaugural events for the new DeWine administration in early January. Our team spoke with Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor Husted directly about our excitement for InnovateOhio and the new office on Children’s Initiatives. We had several conversations with key inner circle DeWine/Husted advisors, staff and team members, as well as new Cabinet appointees. We also spoke with President Obhof and several other key legislators at the events. Over the past several weeks, G2G has talked with Speaker Householder and the entire Columbus GOP delegation, including new Assistant Majority Whip, Rep. Lanese, and Senators Brenner and Kunze as well as many from the NE Ohio delegation. G2G also organized a special forum with new Senate Finance Chairman, Matt Dolan in early February to provide access and the chance to hear the ins and outs of the Statehouse from one the state’s most influential legislators.
OHIO GENERAL ASSEMBLY UPDATES
Larry Householder (R-Glenford) made negotiations with Democrats sealing his win to become Speaker of the Ohio House. The final tally was 52 votes for Householder, 26 of which were from Democrats, and 46 votes for Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell). Unlike the Speaker vote in late 2018, which went 10 rounds with no majority before Smith won by a plurality in the 11th round, Householder won in the first round of voting. Shortly after the Speaker vote, Minority Leader Fred Strahorn stepped down along with other minority leadership members, so the new leadership slate is listed below.
Changes in the House
Speaker Householder has made good on his promises so far, by beginning a search for an HR professional who will lead an independent human resources department. Work has also begun on potential rule changes for the House regarding amendments and some LSC documents. The rule would better outline when a comparison document is required for a substitute bill, which allows members to review the changes to a bill more easily before voting and makes changes to when amendments need to be submitted to the Clerk’s office and how amendments are voted on in session. Also, as promised, the standings on committees have been narrowed to 60-40 Republican to Democrat.
Senate leadership has changed slightly for the majority and minority in this General Assembly due to governor appointments and term limits from the last election. The leadership teams for the Senate are as follows:
Governor DeWine announced a new advisory panel to advise his RecoveryOhio initiative. Created by executive order, the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council will advise RecoveryOhio Director, Alisha Nelson on strategies and ways for agencies to better collaborate and work together on the drug addiction problem in the state. DeWine would like the group to make actionable recommendations, including fiscal appropriations for the upcoming state budget, and he is asking for the recommendations to be delivered to him no later than March 8th. The panel will be chaired by Nelson and members will be made up of individuals from various state health organizations as well as Gov. Ted Strickland and retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton.
DeWine Administration Health Initiatives
The Governor said he has not decided whether he will keep the Office of Health Transformation, and said he is not ready to announce a director of the Ohio Department of Health. Leading up to the introduction of his executive budget in March, DeWine said he expects to unveil initiatives that will be featured in the budget weekly, rolling them out over the next month and a half rather than dropping them all at once with the budget’s introduction.
Ohio dispensaries began selling medical marijuana on January 16th. In the first 11 days, there was $333,592 in sales and 46 pounds sold. Doctors have completed over 3,400 recommendations for medical marijuana in the Patient and Caregiver Registry since it went live December 5th. Regulators are now researching potentially adding nasal sprays to the list of allowable forms of the drug. The Controlling Board approved requests from the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) for additional funding to cover legal and operational costs for the Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). DOC expects to repay the over $4M borrowed from the Emergency Purposes/Contingencies Fund using revenues from the program.
In lame duck, legislators revised a bill granting health benefits to the families of slain public safety workers adding on an amendment for pay increases for state and local elected officials, including the legislature itself. Alongside the pay raises was language creating InnovateOhio, a new office that Gov. DeWine wanted to establish with Husted at its helm. It set a legally mandated $176,426 salary for the director, a 60 percent raise over what Husted made as Secretary of State and more than the $113,900 Lt. Gov. salary (that was also increased in the bill along with other statewide offices).
G2G has met with staff at InnovateOhio. While still in its early stages, InnovateOhio will aim to:
- Create an advisory council of Ohio business and technology leaders to advise the administration on how the state can improve customer service.
- Create a “SmartOhio Operating System” which requires state departments to participate in data sharing to improve the efficiency and give the capacity to provide for predictive analytics to solve problems before they occur.
- Improve procurement by opening the bidding process to encourage more participation, lower costs, more public accountability, better customer service and state pricing for local governments.
- Modernize paper-to-digital records by using blockchain technology to create secure digital records and improve convenience.
- Build a public/private partnership where the private sector can bring data and analytic sharing solutions into government to improve the way public services are delivered.
The CyberOhio Advisory Board was moved from the Attorney General’s Office to the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) after DeWine was sworn. In their first meeting this year, board members discussed potential new legislation regarding workforce development and improving cybercrime laws in Ohio. Companion bills introduced by LaRose and Romanchuk to create the cyber reserve did not pass during the 132nd General Assembly, mostly due to lack of time. These bills will be reintroduced and are likely to pass in this General Assembly. The reserve would primarily be established to assist businesses responding to a cyber-attack but would also work to help businesses improve security practices as well. In addition, the National Guard is in the process of developing a second cyber range for statewide business and education use at the University of Akron. The first range was created at the University of Cincinnati and is about to be doubled in size. Once complete, the full range system will be available through the Ohio Academic Research Network (OARnet), which can be accessed from government buildings, colleges and universities and public libraries.
The Administration and Legislature will have to face a decision on the Third Frontier Program, which was created in 2002 to seed technology research and attract private investment. Third Frontier was most recently funded by a $700M bond issue approved by voters in 2010 and was to support the program for five years, but about $200M remains unspent. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce recommended ways to spend that money. The recommendation was to create four hubs of innovation in cities around the state. Each would focus on a specific area: data analytics, health, next-generation manufacturing and smart infrastructure. The chamber also recommended that voters be asked to renew the bond fund to keep the program. There has been no word on how DeWine will handle the program, however, interesting to note that Jon Husted was the Speaker of the House when Governor Taft launched the program and he served a key role in shepherding the legislation through the Statehouse.
G2G (Government to Growth Consulting), LLC is a consulting firm specializing in assisting businesses and non-profit organizations. G2G provides comprehensive consultation in the fields of government affairs, economic development, grant writing, public relations, and event planning. G2G also has extensive experience in the areas of lobbying, advocacy, fundraising and grassroots organizing.