Ohio Legislative Update for December 2018

December 18, 2018

G2G 400

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.

Contributor-LPowell

Here is an update on what is happening in the Capitol and around the state.

As always, please let us know any questions.

OVERVIEW

Bills are being pushed through committees and on to the floor quickly as the legislature continues lame duck. Both the House and Senate are expected to meet the week of Christmas for veto overrides on a number of controversial bills. The 133rd General Assembly will be sworn in in early January as well as Governor-elect Mike DeWine whose inauguration events will be held beginning January 11th with the Inaugural Gala being held January 14th.

G2G AT MAJOR EVENTS

G2G attended Impact Ohio’s Post Election Conference in November and talked directly with Governor-elect Mike DeWine before the event started. He is excited and aiming to address many issues in his new administration. G2G also saw many Ohio legislators, staff, and government relations professionals as this is a widely attended every two years. The conference included panels analyzing election results, health care and energy policy, expectations in the next operating budget, and updates from majority and minority leadership teams. President Obhof said next year the focus will be on regulatory and licensing reform, removing red tape, increasing job growth, and providing better training. Speaker Smith spoke in-depth about developing the cyber reserve in Ohio to reach rural communities. He also wants the state to focus on opiates and access to treatment. Governor-elect DeWine was the keynote speaker and highlighted his plans for children’s initiatives, InnovateOhio, local government, job growth, and criminal justice. He plans to have an open administration that will gather data, facts, and opinions to make decisions. See key aspects of his InnovateOhio plan are below.

At another event, G2G spoke directly with Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township) and Representative and incoming Senator Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). Both are long term finance committee members. They advised that advocates should start developing relationships and educating legislators now with any issues that they’ll be pursuing in the state budget.  Senator-elect Antonio also commented that the most important thing for a legislator to hear is the personal stories of those impacted by the issue for which they are lobbying as these stories have the greatest impact.

Some key points looking toward the DeWine Administration to note:

  • $3 billion surplus in GRF
  • GOP will control all state policy
  • JobsOhio and Third Frontier will remain
  • Governor DeWine likely similar position on policies as Kasich
  • Marijuana, drug pricing, right to try, etc. many federal policies have shifted to states

ELECTIONS

State Legislature

With all Ohio elections now certified, the Ohio General Assembly will stand at 61 Republicans to 38 Democrats in the House and 24 Republicans to 9 Democrats in the Senate. The last two elections to be called were for the 28th House District in Hamilton County and the 3rd Senate District in Franklin County. Both seats were flipped by Democrats in very tight races. In the 28th House District, Democrat Jessica Miranda beat incumbent Republican Jonathan Dever by only 56 votes. In the 3rd Senate District, Democrat Tina Maharath beat Republican Representative Anne Gonzales by 702 votes.

Third Parties

The Office of the Ohio Secretary of State asserts that both the Ohio Green Party and the Libertarian Party of Ohio will lose their minor-party status, as their gubernatorial candidates failed to get 3 percent of the vote in last month’s midterm election. Libertarians, however, have claimed they may sue if they’re de-certified stating state law they say exempts them from the 3-percent requirement.

Turnout and Results

As G2G traveled the state to give an analysis of the election results and predictions for 2019 in Ohio and in D.C. this month in Columbus and Cleveland, we continued to share how remarkable the voter turnout was this year – breaking the record in a gubernatorial election! More than 4.3 million votes were cast for one of the four gubernatorial candidates. The only other time the vote topped 4 million was in 2006 when Ted Strickland defeated Kenneth Blackwell. The 2016 presidential election turned out nearly 5.5 million Ohioans. Cordray won Ohio’s four largest counties (Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, and Summit) 60.9% to 36.6%. DeWine won the combined vote in Ohio’s other 84 counties 58% to 38.9%. Overall, DeWine won 79 of the 88 counties. DeWine’s win marks the seventh time in eight elections the governor’s race went to the Republican Party.

HEALTH

Step Therapy

The Senate has passed SB56 (Lehner, Tavares), which would adopt requirements of step therapy protocols. While the bill waited for hearings in House, the companion bill, HB 72 (T. Johnson, Antonio) was been amended into SB 265 (Dolan), which is expected to both the House and Senate before the end of the General Assembly. Sixty patient and physician groups back the effort to regulate step therapy where patients begin with the most cost-effective and widely proven drug and progress to more expensive and riskier drugs only when the cheaper ones are unsuccessful. Health insurers, however, oppose the legislation. They note patients are grouped together in insurance pools, and the costs of the more expensive drugs will be passed on to everyone if the legislation passes. Ohio Medicaid has cautioned the legislation could cost the state tens of millions of dollars per year. However, 18 states have already passed similar “patient protection laws” on step therapy and none have reported major price hikes.

The bills’ provisions include:

  • Requiring insurers, Medicare or Medicaid have scientifically based protocols when they use step therapy.
  • Requiring transparency for patients and physicians so they know when step therapy can be exempt.
  • Establishing a timeline for appealing an insurer’s decision against a higher-priced drug.
  • Establishing circumstances for when doctors can override step therapy.

Opioids

Opioids crisis remains a top concern in Columbus. Ohio continues to rank as second to worse in the nation in overdoses. Recently, the New York Times highlighted Dayton’s opioid plan after the city made many changes causing fatal overdoses to drop more than 50% from last year. Overdose deaths in Montgomery County, anchored by Dayton, have plunged this year, after a stretch so bad that the coroner’s office had to rent refrigerated trailers after running out of space. The county had 548 overdose deaths by Nov. 30 last year; so far this year there have been 250, a 54% decline. Mayor Nan Whaley believes the biggest impact on overdose deaths was Governor Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid in 2015, which gave nearly 700,000 low-income adults access to free addiction and mental health treatment. In Dayton, that’s drawn more than a dozen new treatment providers in the last year alone, including residential programs and outpatient clinics that dispense medications approved by the F.D.A. to treat opioid addiction. Governor-elect DeWine promised to continue Medicaid expansion in his administration so this success in Dayton could spread to the rest of the state.

BUSINESS

InnovateOhio

On the campaign trail, DeWine/Husted unveiled InnovateOhio, which would use private-public partnerships to make Ohio a national leader in new technology. This plan will be spearheaded by Husted and a team of technology entrepreneurs. The plan includes:

  • Creating an advisory council of Ohio business and technology leaders to advise the administration on how the state can improve customer service.
  • Creating 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.
  • Improving procurement by opening the bidding process to encourage more participation, lower costs, more public accountability, better customer service and state pricing for local governments.
  • Modernizing paper-to-digital records by using blockchain technology to create secure digital records and improve convenience.
  • Building 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.

General Revenue Fund

Jon Husted will take on his new role as Lieutenant Governor in January but before leaving his current role as Secretary of State he looking to transfer $10 million from his office’s fund to the state’s General Revenue Fund. The extra funds came through a series of cost-cutting measures, including posting many forms and office functions online, such as online voter registration and voters’ change of address. The request to transfer funds has been submitted to the Office of Budget and Management.

Opportunity Zones

G2G attended the Greater Cleveland Partnership “Opportunity Zones-Redefining Cleveland” Discussion. Opportunity zones were created by the 2017 federal tax bill. Based on census tracts, there are 8,700 opportunity zones nationwide intended to attract investment and new companies, with the majority in lower-income areas. 320 of these zones are in Ohio, with an even split between urban and rural areas. There has been a lot of talk about Midwest opportunity zones because of the vast industries it holds. Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and blockchain all require other industries, including farms, hospitals, and insurance companies, all of which are present in the Midwest. Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring sponsored HB727, which would create tax credits for state opportunity zones. While this bill has not had movement in this general assembly and is not expected to pass by the end of the year, excitement from the DeWine administration around opportunity zones make it likely to reappear next general assembly. The zones’ tax benefits can combine with low-income housing credits and others to help provide affordable housing and many other investment opportunities.

Workforce

Businesses and higher education institutions have launched mostly individual efforts toward producing better workers but will now be taking up combined initiatives promoted by the U.S. and Ohio Business Roundtable organizations, which seek to connect programs and focus on filling openings in STEM fields and increasing diversity in those sectors. The initiative will work to engage students in middle and high school as they consider future careers and will help prepare them for the workforce through work-based learning such as internships and apprenticeships. This will not be limited to just preparing those entering the workforce for the first time but will also provide a means of retraining people who may have been subject to job cuts or had difficulty finding employment with a prior college degree. The discussion came shortly after General Motors announced it was cutting nearly 15,000 employees, including 1,500 at the Lordstown plant. G2G is tracking this initiative.

Cryptocurrency

Ohio has become the first state to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment for state taxes. Currently, only businesses can pay using OhioCrypto.com, but Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel said his hope is that individuals eventually could pay their taxes using Bitcoin and even other cryptocurrencies. Sprague praised Mandel’s effort, but did not state if he would keep or expand it once he takes over the state treasurer’s office in January.

JobsOhio

Outgoing JobsOhio President John Minor told the board the organization has helped create 20,447 new jobs and retain 52,684 jobs this year he also predicted a very good December stating there are 433 active projects, with the potential to bring around 43,000 new jobs and retain 51,000 jobs. JobsOhio also worked with tech company Upstart toward creation of a research and development center in Columbus to support Upstart’s efforts to leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to price credit and automate the borrowing process. There has been no word on what exactly the DeWine administration will do with JobsOhio though on the campaign trail DeWine said he would likely keep it in some form. However, the make-up will be much different with half the Board seats up in mid 2019 and Minor’s plan to step down.

Akron’s Fusion Fund

A new early stage investment fund promises to offer $20 million in capital for software startups and other high-growth businesses in and around Akron. Akron-based companies, Acquire Investments, the Bounce Innovation Hub, and JumpStart Inc. are launching a new fund, the Fusion Fund, and are working to gather investments. Fusion hopes to help companies grow in Akron and maybe even attract new companies to town. Fusion is a for-profit fund with a primary goal of making money for its investors, looking to make initial investments of $250,000 in the companies it selects. After that, it will likely make subsequent investments of up to $1 million in additional rounds, often in debt that can later be converted to equity. After five years, Bounce anticipates the Fund will create 250 jobs and support 20 new companies that raise approximately $75 million in follow-on investment capital. Akron was one of just 16 cities across the nation to receive one of the annual seed-fund grants from the EDA this year.

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.