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Ohio Statehouse Update: Week in Review — January 20, 2012

 

1. House Republicans outline priorities

House Speaker William Batchelder (R-Medina) and Ohio House Republicans held a press conference this week to outline legislative priorities for 2012. The caucus touted the 90 bills passed in the first half of the General Assembly addressing regulatory reform, prescription drug abuse and the creation of JobsOhio.

Republican leaders said they will initiate comprehensive, bipartisan hearings on the state’s school funding formula and student achievement. These efforts will be led by Representative Ron Amstutz (R- Wooster), chair of the House Finance Committee. “We want to create a new model of achievement and accountability that will benefit all of Ohio’s students and give those from disadvantaged geographic regions an equal chance to succeed,” said Rep. Amstutz. 

The following policy areas are on the legislative agenda for House members:

  • Creation of the Development Services Agency and implementation of the recommendations of the JobsOhio report
  • Workforce development legislation focusing on helping career tech schools and community colleges prepare a ready work force
  • Bureau of Workers’ Compensation reform- identify cost-saving possibilities
  • The Great Lakes Compact
  • Casino and gaming laws
  • Healthcare exchange
  • Laws pertaining to exotic animals

2. Treasurer releases year-end review

Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office released its “2011 Top-Bottom Review” highlighting the office’s positive outcomes in 2011. In the report, Mandel says his first action as treasurer was to launch an extensive review to help identify ways to streamline operations, make the office more cost-efficient, modernize banking practices, and increase security.

Among the accomplishments listed was an S&P rating which raised Ohio’s AA+ credit rating outlook from “negative” to “stable.” Additionally, the office said S&P’s AAAm rating of STAR Ohio, an investment pool the Ohio Treasurer administers for local governments, was significant because it was given just after S&P issued a historic downgrade of the federal government and after it downgraded 14 similar state and local government investment pools.

The report also notes a reduction in the office payroll, resulting in a $400,000 surplus at the end of the 2011 fiscal year and more than $1.2 million in general revenue fund operating expenses cut from the biannual budget.

3. Positive economic signs

Ohio’s unemployment rate was 8.1 percent in December 2011, down from 8.5 percent in November, according to data released this morning by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in December was 469,000, down from 496,000 in November. The December unemployment rate for Ohio was down from 9.5 percent in December 2010.

Separately, the Ohio Department of Commerce announced this week that dollar sales of spirituous liquor reached a record level in 2011, totaling $793.7 million. This represents an increase of 5.3 percent, exceeding last year’s total by $40 million.

Additionally, 2011 experienced a 4.7 percent increase in wholesale dollar sales—liquor purchased by retail permit holders such as restaurants, bars and clubs. Total wholesale sales reached $244 million, exceeding last year by $10.9 million.

“This is a positive indicator for Ohio’s economy, showing that Ohioans are again patronizing restaurants and entertainment businesses,” said David Goodman, director of the Department of Commerce.

4. Legislation approved this week

The Ohio Senate met on January 18, 2012 and approved the following bills:

  • House Bill 66: Sponsored by Representative Ross McGregor (R- Springfield), the bill requires the Auditor of State to establish a fraud-reporting system for residents and public employees to anonymously report fraud and misuse of public funds by public offices. Extends the whistle-blower protections against retaliatory firing or other disciplinary action to state employees who file a complaint with the Auditor of State’s fraud-reporting system.
  • House Bill 116: Sponsored by Representative John Barnes (D- Cleveland), the bill enacts the “Jessica Logan Act” regarding public schools’ policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying and to qualify certain homeschooled students for in-state tuition at state institutions of higher education.
  • Senate Bill 37: Sponsored by Senator Jim Hughes (R- Columbus), the legislation would require the Director of Transportation to designate portions of state highways, county or township roads, or streets or highways located within municipal corporations, as memorial highways in honor of each State Highway Patrol trooper, county sheriff, deputy sheriff, township constable, or police officer of a township police department or district, or law enforcement agency of a municipal corporation who is or has been killed in the line of duty.

The House and Senate chambers are scheduled to hold voting sessions January 24-25, 2012.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Caputo
(non-attorney professional)
216.348.5770
mcaputo@mcdonaldhopkins.com

Rebecca M. Kuhns
(non-attorney professional)
614.458.0043
rkuhns@mcdonaldhopkins.com

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