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Ohio’s unemployment system goes broke: Capitol Letter

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 6/17/2020 By Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland.com
a large tall tower with a clock at the top of a building: The Ohio Statehouse from the west lawn on Friday, May 29, 2020. © Andrew J. Tobias, cleveland.com/cleveland.com/TNS The Ohio Statehouse from the west lawn on Friday, May 29, 2020.

Rotunda Rumblings

I’d gladly pay you Tuesday: Gov. Mike DeWine said the state has asked the U.S. Department of Labor for a loan totaling more than $3 billion to help pay unemployment claims in the state, Seth Richardson reports. DeWine said a fix to the unemployment system was needed to help with insolvency problems, though he didn’t expect one in the near future given the current economic situation.

New tactic: With the House breaking for the summer, proposed legislation to allow the state unemployment program to issue privately purchased bonds won’t be introduced until this fall, according to state Rep. Craig Riedel, a Defiance Republican working on the bill. While the Senate earlier this month approved a proposed constitutional amendment to allow such bonds (which would have Ohio employers pay the interest), Riedel said lawmakers are now exploring whether they can authorize the bonds via state law, rather than needing to hold a statewide vote on the idea.

Cash back to schools: Thirty-six of the 70 school districts that would get some cash back from DeWine’s budget cuts are in the Cleveland-Akron area, though biggest winners are three Columbus-area suburban districts, reports Rich Exner. The change is part of a larger education bill lawmakers passed last week that is awaiting the governor’s signature. Find the school-by-school numbers statewide with our chart.

School instruction: “State guidelines for reopening Ohio K-12 schools this fall will be announced within the next 10 days,” Jeremy Pelzer writes. “However, the governor again emphasized that it will be up to each of the state’s 610 school districts to decide how to reopen, if they reopen at all given the coronavirus pandemic.”

Fair deal: County fairs in Ohio can be held this year so long as a number of hygiene and social-distancing precautions are taken, under a new state health order issued Tuesday. As Pelzer reports, though, almost two dozen county fairs, as well as the Ohio State Fair, have already been completely or partially canceled.

Not signing off: A group trying to force the state to relax its signature-gathering requirements for ballot issues during the coronavirus crisis was dealt another legal setback on Tuesday, Andrew Tobias writes. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to reconsider an earlier decision from three 6th Circuit judges who blocked a federal judge’s ruling that would have required Ohio to accept electronic signatures collected by petition circulators. A lawyer for the group, which backs a number of local marijuana decriminalization initiatives, said he plans to take the issue to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Crisis communication: Summit County is the latest local government to declare racism a public health crisis, Robin Goist reports. Following a unanimous vote from county council, Summit County joins Akron, Cleveland, Columbus and Franklin County, among other places, in making the designation.

Nationwide look: Police in five of Ohio’s largest cities — Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo – were among the 98 cities nationwide that used tear gas in the response to protesters demonstrating against police brutality, according to the New York Times. On a related note, Columbus officials on Tuesday announced they are banning police use of tear gas while restricting the use of pepper spray to only be used “in clear instances of violence,” as opposed to general crowd dispersal, according to WBNS.

Training day: GOP Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof said following Dayton-area Republican Sen. Steve Huffman’s use of racist language at a committee hearing, the chamber would include training on diversity, inclusion and implicit bias for both members and staff. Huffman was fired from his job as an ER doctor after asking if the “colored population” were more susceptible to disease because they had worse hygiene. “I have spoken to him and made clear that it has no place in our discourse,” Obhof said. “He has apologized and has begun the process of seeking and earning the forgiveness of those hurt by his remarks.”

Not ready for some football: The annual Hall of Fame football game in Canton, scheduled for Aug. 6, likely won’t have fans there this year, DeWine said. Per Scott Patsko, DeWine, while acknowledging the event’s importance to Stark County, said he can’t envision safely allowing large crowds for the game and the accompanying National Football League Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Schooling Portman: The American Federation of Teachers is targeting Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and his counterparts in nine other states with a $1 million ad campaign urging Senate passage of the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package the House of Representatives adopted last month. “How can we reopen without teachers?” asks the ad, which will run for two weeks on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and Facebook.

Remembering Otto: Portman and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown introduced a bipartisan resolution Tuesday that remembers the life of Cincinnati native Otto Warmbier, who died after he was imprisoned in North Korea, and calls on the U.S. government to continue to condemn human rights violations in North Korea. A statement from Portman pledged to ensure “that Otto is never forgotten.”

Juneteenth: President Trump’s decision to alter the date of a campaign rally in Tulsa because it would occur on Juneteenth drew widespread attention to the holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. Sabrina Eaton explores the history of the June 19 festivities and the drive to make it a federal holiday.

Strauss Board meets: On Tuesday, a state task force met that was formed to review misconduct allegations against licensed professionals in the aftermath of years of sexual abuse committed by deceased Ohio State University physician Richard Strauss. Stephanie Loucka, executive director of the Ohio State Medical Board, said the task force has completed much of its work. But major outstanding items include pushing for a pair of law changes that have yet to be introduced, including one that would allow the state to revoke a professional license due to a criminal indictment. The medical board also has updated its transparency website to include information about open and closed misconduct complaints.

Lending a hand: A new website from Ohio Auditor Keith Faber aims to offer guidance to local governments dealing with the fiscal fallout from the coronavirus crisis. The page includes a spreadsheet laying out the various grants and other forms of support that are available.

Searching the couch cushions: Ohio has saved $950,000 since November by identifying and clawing back duplicate payments, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Tuesday. The project, which used data analytics, is part of Husted’s InnovateOhio initiative, which focuses on using technology to improve government operations. The Office of Budget and Management also was involved. Another $50,000 in duplicate payments remain unrecovered.

Turning over a new leaf: A medical marijuana products company has given up its license to operate a Clermont County facility as it takes steps to acquire a more lucrative facility in Central Ohio, Jackie Borchardt reports for the Cincinnati Enquirer. Curaleaf has said it plans to acquire Johnstown-based Green Therapies LLC, but is barred by state law from owning more than one licensed marijuana company.

Our bad: The Tuesday issue of Capitol Letter gave an incorrect amount when describing the amount of aid JobsOhio has spent on the proposed petrochemical ‘cracker’ plant in Belmont County. The amount is $70 million, not $70 billion.

Full Disclosure

Five things we learned from the Feb. 18, 2020 financial disclosure of state Rep. David Leland, a Columbus Democrat:

1. In addition to his legislative salary of $69,053, he earned more than $100,000 in 2019 working as a lawyer for Carpenter, Lipps and Leland, LLP.

2. He also made $25,000 to $49,999 in interest in dividends from accounts with Vanguard and Mass Mutual.

3. He is a board member for the Columbus Clippers, the minor league baseball team.

4. He owns at least $1,000 in stock in the following companies: LNCB Bank, Ford, Invirsa and Green Growth.

5. He charged his campaign account for $1,010.96 to pay for official travel.

Birthdays

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur U.S. Rep. Brad WenstrupHeather Blessing, Ohio House Republicans’ deputy legal counsel and deputy budget directorDavid Reedy, Ohio Senate Republicans’ deputy finance director

Straight From The Source

“Thank you to @cscc_edu for taking the first steps towards removing their statue, as it amounts to a totem of systemic racism and oppression. City Hall must be next.”

- Columbus City Councilwoman Liz Brown, in a Tuesday Twitter post. Columbus State Community College on Tuesday said it would be moving a 40-foot statue of Columbus from its campus within the next two weeks as a “symbolic gesture” of the school’s opposition to racism, according to the Columbus Dispatch. There are two more major statues of the Italian explorer in the city that bears his name — one outside the Statehouse, and another outside City Hall.

Capitol Letter is a daily briefing providing succinct, timely information for those who care deeply about the decisions made by state government. If you do not already subscribe, you can sign up here to get Capitol Letter in your email box each weekday for free.

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