Take two: A standoff between the Republican-controlled legislature and GOP Gov. Mike DeWine has been set in motion, following a Wednesday vote. Per Andrew Tobias and Jeremy Pelzer, the House approved its version of Senate Bill 22, which would limit DeWine’s ability to issue health orders, and the Senate then swiftly approved the House changes. DeWine vetoed similar legislation in December and has vowed to do so again. House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Matt Huffman both said they had enough votes to override any veto.
Power play: The House also voted to approve House Bill 128, which would eliminate the nuclear subsidies in House Bill 6 among other provisions contained in the tainted energy bill, Tobias reports. The Senate previously passed two bills that addressed removing separate aspects of the bill. House and Senate leaders now will have to decide how to move forward with dismantling the bill.
Hot take: During floor debate on HB128 Wednesday, State Rep. Bill Seitz said it was “false to insinuate” that House corruption had anything to do with HB6′s passage, despite a political nonprofit and others pleading guilty to helping funnel $60 million in FirstEnergy bribery money to get the bill passed. Per Tobias, Seitz said no one who has pleaded guilty so far is a member of the House. Seitz also suggested that a delay in the racketeering case against former House Speaker Larry Householder meant federal authorities “aren’t quite as certain about the charges.” Vipal Patel, the acting U.S. attorney overseeing the case, said: “To be precise, a grand jury indicted, not insinuated, a RICO conspiracy alleging a bribery scheme related to HB 6.”
Taking a closer look: The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio voted Wednesday to expand one of its audits of FirstEnergy Corp. to probe questionable costs paid by the utility, including $4 million paid to a company associated with ex-PUCO chair Sam Randazzo. As Pelzer reports, if the audit finds ratepayer money was wrongly used to pay the costs, the PUCO could order customer refunds.
Madame Secretary: The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted to confirm Marcia Fudge as President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Secretary in a 66 to 34 vote, Sabrina Eaton writes. Fudge resigned her congressional job and was sworn in as the nation’s 18th HUD secretary that afternoon. The Warrensville Heights Democrat will be the first woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years and the second Black woman in history to lead the department.
Geraldo at Large: Longtime reporter and conservative commentator Geraldo Rivera is considering throwing his name into the list of GOP candidates to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Rob Portman, Seth Richardson reports. Rivera, who lives in Shaker Heights, said he thought he could run a campaign to bridge the divide within the Republican Party over former President Donald Trump while attracting new voters as well.
A shot at the shot: Signup for the Cleveland mass vaccination site will begin Thursday morning, Laura Hancock reports. Also, providers are expected to open signups for people 50-59 by Thursday morning – the first day they’re eligible for the shot — if they haven’t already.
Coming soon: The state announced “pop-up” or temporary coronavirus mass vaccine clinics for next week in Columbus and Cincinnati in which 50,000 doses will be administered, Hancock reports. Meantime, coronavirus cases increased Wednesday by 1,868.
Travel advisories end: The Ohio Department of Health will no longer issue weekly domestic travel advisories showing states with a 15% coronavirus test positivity rate or higher. State health officials didn’t immediately say why they ended the weekly advisories, which they had put out since last summer, Pelzer writes.
Collin’s Law: A renewed version of “Collin’s Law” was introduced on Wednesday, after a Bowling Green State University student died in an suspected hazing incident last week. The law would further define hazing and create an “aggravated hazing” category, which would be a felony, Emily Bamforth reports.
Plant growth: The number of Ohio medical marijuana dispensaries could soon increase. Hancock writes that the 60-dispensary cap may soon be lifted as thousands more patients and caregivers continue to register and make purchases each month.
Rule breaking: The Ohio Senate sent to the House a measure Wednesday that would require each state agency to reduce regulations contained in its rules by 30% by 2025. Senate Bill 9 also prohibits agencies from adopting new regs that would increase the percentage of restrictions in their agency rules. Democratic critics said that the 30% figure is arbitrary, will result in extra work for the agencies and could ultimately make Ohio less safe.
Sitting this one out: The Rev. Jawanza Colvin, pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, announced Wednesday he wouldn’t run for the 11th Congressional District. The move likely comes as a sigh of relief for the already crowded field, with Colvin being highly respected in the religious and activist community.
Forum or against ‘em: The Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus will hold a candidate forum for the district on March 24. The event is the second of its kind following the Jewish Democratic Council of America’s forum last week. You can register to view the CCPC forum here.
Child care: Ohio will create a statewide support system for work on child and adolescent behavioral services, Bamforth reports. The “center” will work to expand access to government services through telehealth, offer training for workers and support initiatives like OhioRISE and implementation the Family First Prevention Services Act.
Room to grow: Liz Skalka at the Toledo Blade took a closer look at new Ohio Republican Party Chairman Bob Paduchik’s plans to improve the GOP’s electoral results in urban areas. Lisa Stickan, chair of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party, told her that former President Donald Trump improved on his 2016 margins in the county by performing better in suburbs like Parma and Brook Park.
Stimulus tax breaks: Expect that federal income tax break on unemployment benefits included in the latest stimulus bill to extend to Ohio income taxes as well, reports Rich Exner. The provision makes tax free up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020, but doesn’t cover any unemployment payments received this year. Exner covered that and other federal, state and local tax issues related to the pandemic in his weekly personal finance column, That’s Rich!
Donation dispute: The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus is disputing a line on a campaign finance report of state Rep. Nino Vitale that claims it donated $2,000 to the Urbana Republican — who is white but has claimed he has darker skin than many Black lawmakers. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office, which oversees the filing of campaign finance reports, is looking into the matter, the Dayton Daily News’ Laura Bischoff reports.
Five groups that lobbied on last legislative session’s House Bill 78, which would have loosened requirements for government to pay prevailing wages on projects. Prevailing wage rules ensure laborers on large government construction projects are paid at least the average wage of nearby workers on similar jobs. The bill didn’t become law. This year, a similar prevailing wage bill has been introduced, although lobbyists don’t have to disclose their work on it until May. State lobbying forms don’t require people to disclose if they’re for or against a bill.
1. Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio
2. Associated General Contractors of Ohio
3. Caterpillar Inc.
4. Laborers’ District Council of Ohio
5. Ohio Conference of Plasterers and Cement Masons
State Sen. Michael Rulli
–Mike Thompson, WOSU news director, commenting on the news that Geraldo Rivera is considering a Republican run for U.S. Senate. Springer, also a TV personality with Ohio roots, has often been mentioned as a potential Democratic candidate for statewide office.
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