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.
Here is an update on what is happening in the Capitol and around the state. As always, please let us know any questions.
After many weeks without a leader and without session, the House elected Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) as their new Speaker of House on June 6th. Because no nominee could receive the required majority from the Republican caucus, House members agreed to vote as a chamber, but the Speaker would still be required to have a majority. The nominees for Speaker were Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell), Andy Thompson (R-Marietta), Jim Hughes (R- Upper Arlington), and Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). After ten rounds of voting, no nominee could obtain a majority. Per the rules, in the 11th round of voting, the nominee with a plurality of votes would be named Speaker. With 44 votes, Ryan Smith was voted Speaker of the House and immediately sworn in. It was then announced that Scott Ryan (R-Newark) would take over as Finance Chairman.
Because of the break in session, both the House and Senate had marathon session and committee days to vote on bills before summer break. After passing about 90 bills in the last two weeks, the Ohio House won’t reconvene until at least September. The Senate also has a light summer schedule with only four “if needed” days before returning on Sept. 26th.
Bills of interest:
SB 299 would appropriate more than $36 million for various programs intended to combat Lake Erie algal blooms. It also would provide $2.5 million for an “OhioCorps” pilot program, under which college students would mentor at-risk teens. This bill was sent to the Governor
HB 318 would offer $14 million in state funding to schools for safety programs and training. This bill was sent to the Governor.
HB 479 would prohibit pharmacy benefit managers from imposing “gag orders” preventing pharmacists from telling customers about cheaper drug options. This bill was voted out of the House and now goes to the Senate.
HB 552 regulates chemical capture and euthanasia of animals. The original bill language prohibited selling dogs for research. G2G contacted Rep. LaTourette’s office about this bill and was told after talking to reputable research facilities, Rep LaTourette realized outright prohibiting would not work and developed compromise language that changes the sale of dogs for research from a mandate to permissive. It also removed the $3 per dog charge, allows dog wardens to set their own price, and they are no longer mandated to sell the dogs for research. This bill was voted out of the House and now goes to the Senate.
SB 293 would require every state agency in Ohio to slash its number of regulations by 30 percent by the end of 2022. This bill was voted out of the Senate and now goes to the House.
In the midst of a busy legislative schedule, G2G remains active on Capitol Square regularly attending both Republican and Democrat fundraisers and election updates. We continue to plan ahead and watch for what may come next as November approaches.
Polling shows that Ohioans are picking and choosing who they support and are not following a party line meaning many statewide races could be up for grabs. On the governor’s race between Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray, DeWine continues to hold a modest lead in most polls, but a recent Quinnipiac poll showed Cordray polling 2 points ahead. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) maintains a strong lead over U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) usually polling 15-17 points ahead.
In the special election race for Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, Democratic enthusiasm is not where it needs to be for Danny O’Connor to upset Republican Troy Balderson on August 7th. Balderson maintains a 10-point lead among potential voters.
ACLU Challenges Congressional Districts
About two weeks after Ohio voters approved Issue 1 to change the way congressional districts are drawn in Ohio starting after the next census, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) announced it has filed a federal lawsuit challenging Ohio’s current congressional map, saying it is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. With the primaries already passed and the General Election four months away, the lawsuit would seem unlikely to affect districts for this cycle but could affect district lines in 2020 which would be the last election before new lines are drawn. The lawsuit also comes as the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether district lines drawn in Wisconsin and Maryland are unconstitutional.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s controversial policy of booting voters who haven’t voted in six years or responded to mailed notices from elections officials. The policy was put on hold as the case worked its way through the courts. It will not resume until after the November election. Husted stated it is too close to federal elections to start the process, and it will give further instructions at a later date.
Senators Peterson (R- Washington Court House) and Kunze (R-Hilliard) introduced Senate Bill 309, which would lengthen the maximum term of the job creation tax credit for businesses making substantial fixed asset and employment investments to 30 years. It would also to authorize commercial activity tax exclusions for receipts of those suppliers from sales to such businesses and authorize local governments to grant longer term property tax exemptions for such businesses or suppliers. G2G has been in contact with Sen. Kunze’s office who is hopeful this legislation will pass by the end of the General Assembly. The bill has received a first hearing in the Senate Ways and Means committee.
High Tech Innovation
Governor Kasich recently signed an executive order to allow autonomous vehicle testing on Ohio roads. To test on Ohio roads, a company would be required to register with the state and provide information on the vehicle and roadway intended for testing. The vehicle would have to meet certain safety standards and be capable of complying with Ohio traffic laws. Each car must have a company employee behind the wheel who would have to monitor the vehicle at all times and report any accidents. The order also creates a voluntary pilot program for communities interested in vehicle testing. They could work with the state to create an inventory of testing locations that offer a variety of traffic and terrain scenarios.
The Senate unanimously advanced House Bill 10 which has to do with raising capital for startups and small businesses through crowdfunding. It was amended to authorize the state auditor to do a performance audit on JobsOhio to see if it is effective. Governor Kasich has previously stated he believes the private nature of JobsOhio needs to be protected so it is unknown if the performance audit will remain in the bill once it hits Kasich’s desk. If it remains, performance audits would occur every four years starting in 2021.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) issued 56 provisional licenses to companies seeking to dispense medical marijuana in the state. All provisional license holders have six months to demonstrate compliance by completing a successful on-site inspection by OBP agents. Once a dispensary is awarded a certificate of operation, it can begin to sell medical marijuana to Ohio patients and caregivers in accordance with Ohio laws and rules. Those who were not awarded provisional licenses can challenge OBP’s decisions in a Chapter 119 hearing.
However, state regulators confirmed that Ohio won’t make the early September deadline to get its medical cannabis program up and running as plants needed to be in the ground last month to meet the mark. The Ohio Department of Commerce has yet to issue final cultivation licenses to any of the 25 companies chosen to grow. The said the agency plans to conduct several inspections in June and July.
Plans to cut $1.1 billion in Medicaid to Ohio hospitals on July 1st were canceled. The Office of Health Transformation said an uptick in the economy and reshuffling of Medicaid funds made the cancellation possible. The Ohio Hospital Association said it met with state officials, showed them financial information and how vital Medicaid is to their bottom line, compelling them to forgo the cut.
Also, in Medicaid news, Dave Burke, Chairman of the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC), held a meeting to assure the agency is ready for the upcoming changes to behavior health payments. Burke is confident Medicaid is ready. The Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers recently asked for the new billing system to be delayed, not believing they will get paid. However, Burke said that the council represents just 150 of the 600 providers, and he believes the many of the providers are mad that they had to dip into reserves during the transition.
Insurers planning to sell individual health care policies on the federal exchange next year proposed charging about 8 percent more in premiums on average, according to preliminary data from the Ohio Department of Insurance. Data showed annual premiums for 2019 are projected to be $6,274 for exchange plans, 8.2 percent higher than the $5,798 seen this year.
Every county will have individual coverage available, though some counties will have just one or two insurers to select. Of the 88 counties,16 counties will have only one insurer. In 2018, 42 counties had just one insurer, while 20 had two. Ten companies have filed proposed rates for 2019 plans, compared to eight companies for the current year.
Biomedical investment is growing in the Midwest. Cleveland is one of these investment cities making Ohio the state with the greatest number of bioscience deals in the Midwest. According to BioEnterprise’s Midwest Healthcare Growth Capital Report for 2017, Ohio has secured 133 bioscience deals worth a total of $503 million. The state placed third in overall investment dollars, following Illinois with $866 million and Minnesota with $561 million. The Midwest as a whole saw $2.5 billion in equity investments in 2017, up 43 percent from the previous year.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has named David Ebersole as the city’s next director of economic development. Ebersole has been interim director since Tracey Nichols left the job in January 2017. Ebersole was been with the department nearly 10 years. One of his early achievements was leading a team that applied for and received $68 million in state and federal funds for brownfield cleanup projects in Cleveland.
National Veterans Memorial
U.S. Representatives Steve Stivers and Joyce Beatty, along with former Congressman Pat Tiberi successfully passed a bill that will make Columbus the home of the new National Veterans Memorial. The memorial will overlook the Scioto River and is set to open to the public this year, prior to Veterans Day on Nov. 11. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter has been named president and CEO of the site.
NASA is teaming with four states, including Ohio, for an event in July aimed at bringing new contracting opportunities to small businesses. The event, “Reaching High: Aerospace Business Matchmaker,” is scheduled for July 17-18 at the Ohio University campus in Athens. Participants will hear from NASA officials about the goods and services NASA needs and how small businesses can qualify to be vendors for the space agency. They will also participate in matchmaking opportunities which will allow businesses, contractors, and universities to learn how to work with aerospace industry services and contractors. Online registration ends July 6.
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.