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.

OVERVIEW

With the heated debate over the budget that caused an 18-day delay in its enactment on July 18, the summer has been fairly quiet. However, hearings start next week and throughout September for some committees and bills that passed before the recess are beginning to take effect this fall. The next scheduled session for the legislature is set for the last week of September. The G2G team has remained actively engaged, meeting with legislators, staff and committees on aerospace, technology, artificial intelligence, education, and health issues throughout the summer. Some highlights include our meetings with Congressman Stivers, Senator Brown and his state director, former Governors Taft and Strickland, Cleveland City Council, and Lt. Governor Husted. More details are below listed by topic.

HEALTH

Hemp Legalization

Soon, Ohio farmers will be legally allowed to cultivate hemp and consumers can now buy hemp-derived products such as cannabidiol (CBD) following the signing of SB57 (S. Huffman-Hill). The bill contained an emergency clause that allowed it to go into effect immediately, so retailers can retrieve CBD products that have been taken off shelves by state regulators and local law enforcement. The bill changes Ohio law to mirror federal law, which doesn’t list hemp as a controlled substance.

Attorney General Yost and 36 other attorneys general are urging the FDA to conduct further research into the benefits and risks of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds, including CBD. In a public comment filed with the FDA, the attorneys general said more information is needed for consumers to be informed. They also encouraged the FDA to continue working with state consumer protection authorities as it considers guidelines for the emerging market. The 2018 Farm Bill removed cannabis products containing less than 0.3 percent of THC from the Schedule I list of drugs prohibited under the Controlled Substances Act. As a result, companies across the country have started to manufacture and sell varieties of hemp.

Opioids

At the end of August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that Ohio will get $55.8M in grants to fight the drug epidemic – part of $1.8B that the Centers for Disease Control and the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) awarded across the nation. The only two states that received more money were California with $69.8M and Pennsylvania with $55.9M. The Ohio Department of Health will distribute the money awarded to the state. Ohio remains a top priority state. Of the 47,600 opioid overdose deaths in 2017, 28,466 (60%) involved synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and tramadol, and the death rate was highest in Ohio where 3,523 died from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2017.

Drug Pricing

Attorney General Yost filed a lawsuit to halt or delay the October trial against opioid manufacturers in Cleveland until the state’s complaint goes to trial. Yost cites Supreme Court precedent in saying that only the state of Ohio can speak on behalf of all its people. Yost pointed out that 86 of Ohio’s 88 counties have no voice in the approaching October trial, which affects only Cuyahoga and Summit counties, leaving out most of Ohio, including the hardest-hit counties in Appalachia. Yost stated that, from the start, each and every Ohio county should have equitable access to money from a settlement or a jury verdict and that money should come in a single action by the state on behalf of all its people. This lawsuit angered communities scheduled to go to court as part of the trials.

DeWine says allowing the state to take over dozens of pending lawsuits filed by cities and counties against opioid manufacturers and distributers is a “serious mistake.” Draft legislation backed by Yost would sue the opioid companies on behalf of the state and allow Ohio to negotiate on behalf of all its residents and allot any settlement money accordingly. DeWine stated he would not sign such a bill.

Vaping

State and local public health officials have confirmed four cases of severe pulmonary disease following vaping. The Ohio Department of Health says the cases are likely due to vaping and officials are investigating an additional 11 reports of illness. The agency says confirmed cases in Ohio range in ages from 18 to 26 years old and include females and males. The cases resided in Lucas, Richland, and Union counties and all required hospitalization. The CDC is reporting more than 200 possible cases across 25 states. On August 23rd, the Ohio Department of Health asked healthcare providers to report all suspected cases of serious pulmonary illness where the cause is unclear, and the patients have a history of vaping or using e-cigarettes. They have also recommended people stop using e-cigarettes during the investigation.

BUSINESS

InnovateOhio

The InnovateOhio Advisory Board executive committee held its second meeting recently. Husted announced former Rep. Mike Duffey will serve as deputy director. The initiative received $18M in funds over the biennium from the state operating budget, allowing them to add staff. The executive committee announced the formation of the following workgroups: Citizen Services and Interactions, Intellectual Property, Marketing and Promotion, Industry and Tech Growth Enablement, and Infrastructure. The executive committee also has a cybersecurity group, formed from the CyberOhio Advisory Board.  Groups will begin meeting in the coming months.

TECHNOLOGY

Cyber Threats

Cyberattacks on government agencies and critical infrastructure are an increasing concern and are being incorporated into the exercise, named “Vigilant Guard 2019,”  that will include a simulated cyberattack event that subsequently causes utility failures and disruptions, as well as separate responses to hazardous material accidents, civil disturbances and radiological incidents. It will include the FBI, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, American Red Cross and the New York National Guard. State agencies also taking part include the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio State Fire Marshal, Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the departments of health, transportation, aging and agriculture. Local law enforcement, fire departments and county emergency management agencies will also be involved in the exercise, which will take place across 11 counties. In total, there will be around 3,300 participants from 90 federal, state and local agencies.

Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee

The Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee (OAATC) heard two presentations recently involving efforts to make the state a nexus for research and development of unmanned aviation, which represents further military uses and potential civil and commercial applications. Art Huber, deputy director with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), discussed unmanned aerial system (UAS) testing beyond visual line of sight at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport. That effort received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April. The committee also discussed creation of four subcommittees, on academics and workforce development; economic development; government advocacy; and public outreach and branding.

EDUCATION 

Student Wellness Resource Website

The Ohio Department of Education and DeWine’s office recently launched a new website designed to provide schools information and resources on meeting student wellness needs. The website comes after $675M in Student Wellness and Success funding was included in the state operating budget. G2G recently met with the Director of Children’s Initiatives for Governor DeWine who is managing this program. We continue to gather insights on the governor’s vision for this new program that was strongly supported by the legislature as it provided additional funding beyond DeWine’s budget request. The program’s funding will be allocated to schools for mental health counseling, wraparound services, mentoring, and after-school programs. Information on the website is meant to help schools develop student wellness plans that support the academic achievement of students. Schools are required to use their Student Wellness and Success funding in partnership with a community organization, such as a board of alcohol, drug and mental health services; an educational service center; a county department of job and family services; a public hospital agency; or a nonprofit organization with experience serving children.

Stay connected for more updates here on our blog, at G2G’s website and on twitter – @G2GConsulting and @BioOhio

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.