Legislative Updates: News from the State House – August 2019

Legislative Updates: News from the State House – August 2019
Wayne Lawrence

Wayne Lawrence, Weiss Movers

ATTORNEY GENERAL
Attorney General Dave Yost Monday announced a $600 million settlement in the 2017 Equifax data breach, of which the state Ohio is due $7.14 million and Ohio consumers perhaps twice that if they all opt in to the $425 million in total restitution. Led partly by Ohio, the investigation into the nation’s largest-ever data hack found more than 147 million U.S. consumers’ information was compromised by Equifax’s “failure to maintain reasonable security systems,” according to the AG.

BALLOT ISSUES
The Ohio Ballot Board Monday unanimously certified a proposed initiated statute that would expand background checks for firearms sales. The issue went to the board after Attorney General Dave Yost certified the petition summary on Friday as a “fair and truthful statement of the proposed statute.” Yost had rejected an earlier version of the proposal. On Monday, Ben Wallace, an attorney representing Ohioans for Gun Safety, the petition group, told the ballot board that the issue was pretty straightforward and clearly is one issue. After his short testimony, the board moved and approved the proposed “Act to Close Loopholes in Background Checks on Gun Sales.”

DISASTERS
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has opened its public assistance program to four counties affected by the severe storms that occurred in late May 2019. The four counties are Columbiana, Greene, Mercer, and Montgomery. Local governments, state agencies and certain nonprofit organizations in the four counties are now eligible for federal funds. The money can be used for eligible storm-related response and recovery efforts, including debris removal, emergency protective measures and damaged infrastructure.

Gov. Mike DeWine Monday declared a state of emergency in 63 Ohio counties where severe weather caused serious highway damage last month. The 63 counties covered by the emergency declaration have suffered damage to roads and/or bridges from significant weather events in June that began with mild temperatures and significant rains which thoroughly saturated the ground causing dangerous roadway damage. Some roadways still have lane restrictions or are closed completely.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT
Ohio’s June unemployment rate fell another 0.1 percent down to an even 4 percent, the lowest it has been since June 2001, according to statistics released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). There were 6,000 fewer workers without jobs in June compared to May.

GAMING/GAMBLING
Ten community organizations have been awarded FY20 funding of $200,000 to prevent problem gambling and expand the state’s infrastructure to more effectively confront the issue, the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) announced Monday. The new program, “Education and Skill Building to Prevent Problem Gambling: A Community Coalitions Project,” provides the Prevention Action Alliance (PAA) (formerly the Drug Free Action Alliance) with $50,000 in FY20 to manage the grants and coordinate the program, OhioMHAS Problem Gambling Services Administrator Stacey Frohnapfel-Hasson told Hannah News.

HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS
Home sales slumped in June compared to last year’s activity but overall the market is nearly tracking last year’s performance, according to Ohio Realtors. The 14,987 sales in June marked a 5.6 percent decline from the same month in 2018. For the first half of 2019, though, sales are just 0.7 percent behind the January-June sales of 2018, while dollar volume of sales was up 5.3 percent for the period.

MARIJUANA/HEMP
There are now 22 dispensaries legally allowed to operate under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy recently awarded certificates of operation to Terrasana Labs at 183 Raydo Circle in Springfield, and to Pure Ohio Wellness, located at 1711 W. Main St. in Springfield.

As Columbus joins Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo and several other Ohio localities in passing measures to reduce penalties for marijuana possession, Attorney General Dave Yost said he’s concerned about local laws conflicting with state laws. “A city ordinance cannot trump state law. This is political theater — symbolic,” Yost told Hannah News on Tuesday. “Possession of marijuana is not an arrestable offense even under state law unless you possess more than 100 grams — a month’s supply.”

A proposed Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) administrative code change removing confidentiality language from its “scope of enforcement” rules under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) drew opponent testimony on Tuesday. The department held a public hearing on its MMCP rules package, which includes six proposed amendments and one new rule. The rules have cleared the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) process and its next step is consideration by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR).

NATURAL RESOURCES
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will distribute more than $485,000 in federal funding to 18 counties, the department announced Wednesday. The dollars will primarily go toward improving schools and roads, ODNR said. “Sensible management of Ohio’s natural resources continues to pay dividends across the state,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “This is a great opportunity to invest in infrastructure and services that residents value.”

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION
Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB80 (Oelslager), the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) budget, into law Monday after the House and Senate agreed to a stripped-down version that took out many of the policy initiatives added by the House. In signing the bill, DeWine did not issue any line-item vetoes.

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is considering reducing premium rates for public employers by an average of 10 percent next year, following a 20 percent reduction for private employer rates that took effect on July 1, and a $1.5 billion refund going to Ohio employers as well. The reduction is backed by Gov. Mike DeWine, and if approved by the board on Aug. 23, it would be the 11th reduction for public employers since 2009 and equal to the third-largest since 1986. BWC Chief Actuarial Officer Chris Carlson said the reduction would save public employers $17.8 million over their 2019 premiums.

About Wayne Lawrence

Wayne Lawrence is Vice-President of Weiss Movers and Storage. Wayne is WHACC's Board Chair and on the Advocacy committee