1. Contract to study the Ohio Turnpike approved
The Ohio Controlling Board has approved a $2.85 million Department of Transportation contract with KPMG Corporate Finance, LLC of Austin, Texas to evaluate options for leveraging the Ohio Turnpike and interstate rest areas. According to the contract, KPMG will identify and evaluate a range of potential options for the turnpike that include maintaining the status quo, public ownership with partial private operation, or private operation through a long-term lease concession.
KPMG will also provide the department with a technical evaluation of the potential opportunities with rest area privatizations. The firm was chosen from 14 firms that responded to the department’s RFP posted in August 2011.
2. Casino legislation clears the House
The Ohio House this week passed House Bill 386, sponsored by Representative Lou Blessing (R- Cincinnati), which would make revisions to Ohio’s gaming-related laws pertaining to casinos, the state lottery, video lottery terminals, horse racing, and gambling.
Among other provisions, the legislation increases criminal penalties for bribery under the Casino law, clarifies that skill-based amusement machines are not slot machines, and permits racetrack operators and management companies that are licensed lottery sales agents to provide video lottery terminal promotional gaming credits to patrons for video lottery terminal gaming. The bill cleared the House by a vote of 69-24 and will now be sent to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.
Separately, the Ohio Casino Control Commission announced this week that casinos in Cleveland and Toledo could open as soon as May 14 and May 28, respectively.
3. Agriculture and lottery directors named
Former State Senator David Daniels this week was appointed Ohio Agriculture Director by Governor John Kasich. A farmer by trade, Daniels served four terms in the Ohio House before he was elected to serve in the 17th Ohio Senate district in 2010.
Prior to being elected to the state legislature, he served four years on the Greenfield City Council and eight as Mayor. He also served as a Highland County Commissioner for six years.
Additionally, the Ohio Lottery’s Interim Director, Dennis R. Berg, has been named Director of the Ohio Lottery. Berg formerly served as the Ohio Lottery’s Deputy Director of Finance and has been an employee of the Ohio Lottery since 1991.
Berg earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cleveland State University. A Certified Public Accountant and Certified Fraud Examiner, he is a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and holds an Ohio Financial Accountability Certificate issued by the Auditor of State.
Separately, Geauga County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mary Brigid Matheney was sworn in as state representative of the 98th House District this week. Rep. Matheney resides in Bainbridge. She will serve through a date to be determined in March.
4. BWC accepting applications for Workplace Wellness Program
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is now accepting applications for its new Workplace Wellness Grant Program. The department said the program was created to help Ohio employers improve the overall health of their workforce and reduce injuries by adding a wellness component to their safety programs that addresses health risk factors specific to their workplaces.
Participating employers will be awarded up to $15,000 over four years to implement wellness programs addressing health risk factors such as obesity and chronic disease. BWC will gather data from participating employers to determine the effectiveness of the program in reducing claims frequency and costs, improving return-to-work and reducing health care costs to employers.
Applications for the BWC Wellness Grant Program are available at www.ohiobwc.com. Employers are encouraged to call 1-800-OHIOBWC to verify eligibility before submitting the application.
5. Legislation approved this week
The Ohio House met on February 14 and 15 and passed the following bills:
- Senate Bill 83: Sponsored by Senator Scott Oelslager (R- North Canton), the bill modifies the authority of certain advanced practice nurses to prescribe schedule II controlled substances.
- Senate Bill 258: Sponsored by Senators Gayle Manning (R- North Ridgeville) and Tom Patton (R- Strongsville), the legislation creates the Statewide Blue Alert Program to rapidly disseminate information related to the killing of or serious injury to law enforcement officers and to aid in the location of missing law enforcement officers.
- House Bill 108: Sponsored by Representatives Ronald Gerberry (D- Youngstown) and Robert Hagan (D- Youngstown), the bill would prohibit an owner, manager, or employee of a registered kennel of dogs who confines or is the custodian or caretaker of a companion animal, from knowingly committing specified types of cruel treatment of a companion animal.
- House Bill 341: Sponsored by Representative Michael Henne (R- Clayton), the bill adds “fraternal benefit society” to the definition of life or health insurer for the purpose of the law regarding risk-based capital for insurers, and subjects fraternal benefit societies to risk-based capital requirements in current law.
- House Bill 383: Sponsored by Representative Lynn Slaby (R- Copley Township), the bill would make changes relative to residential construction and the Consumer Sales Practices Act and establish laws governing the practices of home construction service suppliers.
- House Bill 386: Sponsored by Representative Lou Blessing (R- Cincinnati), the bill makes changes to the law regarding video lottery terminals, casino gaming, bingo and instant bingo, and horse racing.
The Ohio Senate met on February 14 and 15 and passed the following bills:
- House Bill 20: Sponsored by Senator David Burke (R- Marysville) while he was serving in the Ohio House, the bill would specify that the offense of intimidation of an attorney, victim, or witness in a criminal case also applies to delinquency cases and to attempts to influence, intimidate, or hinder a witness to a criminal or delinquent act regardless of whether an action or proceeding is pending.
- House Bill 276: Sponsored by Representative Jim Buchy (R- Greenville) and Senator Lou Gentile (D- Steubenville) while he was serving in the Ohio House, the legislation makes changes to the definition of “agriculture,” and establishes the Legislative Task Force to Study Anaerobic Digesters for Agricultural Use and Application in the State.
- Senate Bill 263: Sponsored by Senator Bill Coley (R- Middletown), the bill removes the requirement that certain telecommunications equipment used in direct marketing must be purchased by a direct marketing vendor in order for the equipment to be exempt from the sales tax.
- Senate Bill 271: Sponsored by Senator Frank LaRose (R- Copley Township), the legislation permits an Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) to withdraw from providing basic landline telephone service, if the ILEC is a “fully competitive incumbent local exchange carrier.”
- Senate Bill 281: Sponsored by Senator Bill Beagle (R- Tipp City), the bill would modify the Agricultural Linked Deposit Program with respect to the maximum amount the Treasurer of State may invest in agricultural linked deposits, the interest rate at which loans are made under the Program, and the maximum loan amount.
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