HB-nixed: With little fanfare, Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday signed House Bill 128, which repeals the cornerstone of the scandal-ridden House Bill 6: a $1 billion-plus bailout of two Northern Ohio nuclear power plants. As Jeremy Pelzer reports, HB128 also repeals an HB6 “decoupling” provision that allows FirstEnergy Corp. to collect a comparatively high amount of money from customers, as well as a separate measure making it easier for FirstEnergy to pass state limits on significantly excessive profits.
Return policy: FirstEnergy says that, as a result of HB128, it will refund $26 million to customers collected under its “decoupling” policy. As Pelzer explains, the Akron-based utility said it will work with state regulators to determine how much money each customer will get, along with how and when they will get it.
Meeting their deadline: DeWine also signed House Bill 74, the two-year, $8 billion-plus state transportation bill. As Andrew Tobias writes, the bill includes more than $5 billion for roads and highways, $74 million annually for public transit and $8 million for electric vehicle charging stations. Of note, DeWine signed the bill on the March 31 deadline, unlike the current transportation budget, which state lawmakers turned in three days in late in April 2019 after negotiations between House and Senate leaders bogged down.
Bet on it: Sen. Kirk Schuring, the Canton Republican who’s taking the lead in the Senate on legalizing betting on sports in Ohio, said he expects to introduce a bill in the next two weeks, Tobias reports. A gaming committee Schuring chairs held its ninth and final hearing on Wednesday. Lawmakers are considering rolling the legislation into the state budget.
Infrastructure buildup: President Joe Biden on Wednesday visited Pittsburgh to kick off his campaign for a $2 trillion “American Jobs Plan” to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Sabrina Eaton has details on the plan and reactions from Ohio members of Congress.
Two steps back: For the second straight week, Ohio’s coronavirus case rate has increased, taking the state further away from DeWine’s goal of 50 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period, the measure he’s promised to use to lift all health orders. Rich Exner predicts that the number DeWine will announce today will be close to 166.7 cases per 100,000, up from 146.9 last week and 143.8 two weeks ago.
Midweek numbers: Ohio reported 1,989 more coronavirus cases on Wednesday, which is above the 21-day average of 1,623, Laura Hancock reports.
Extended learning: The state Department of Education has started posting links to the extended learning plans submitted by school districts at the request of DeWine, Emily Bamforth reports. The plans detail how officials plan to identify students in need of help and what schools will offer in terms of programs to boost progress after learning losses during the pandemic. Though this includes summer school, plans so far seem to make use of both traditional credit recovery and additional enrichment programs.
Variations on a theme: The federal government has identified two cases of the coronavirus variant dominant in South Africa in Ohio, according to the Dispatch. This is now the third variant in Ohio.
‘One more public health crisis:’ DeWine told the Washington Post’s Olivier Knox that Ohioans overdosing on drugs containing fentanyl increased during the coronavirus pandemic, when people were at home alone, many unemployed. DeWine plans to tell President Joe Biden that he needs to pressure China, where the drug is illicitly manufactured, to work harder to stop its flow
To be Frank: For the second day in a row, former state Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat running for the Cleveland-centric 11th Congressional District, bagged a solid endorsement, this time from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Robert Higgs and Seth Richardson report. That follows Turner’s endorsement by Cleveland City Councilman Blaine Griffin on Tuesday, and gives her some serious institutional credibility.
Jackson Five: The never-ending will-he-or-won’t-he over whether Jackson will run for a fifth term as mayor got a boost when Norm Edwards, president of the Black Contractors Group, sent out an email saying Jackson was indeed running. The problem with that, Higgs reports, is Jackson hasn’t said whether he’s running or not, including Wednesday after the email became widely known.
Outdoor gambling: The JACK Thistledown Racino just outside Cleveland on Wednesday unveiled its first major improvement since 2017, opening a glitzy, 12,000-square-foot outdoor patio that has the comforts of indoor gambling. The goal is to attract both smokers and non-smokers to the space, in part because of a robust circulation system, Exner reports.
A neighborly reminder: About 70 Asian Americans and family members who live in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington, where Lt. Gov. Jon Husted lives, sent the Republican a letter in response to a tweet last week in which Husted called the coronavirus the “Wuhan virus.” They said his choice of words has raised anxiety in the community. Bullying of Asian American children has significantly increased in the past 14 months, they said. “Our children are the classmates, friends and neighbors of your children,” the letter said, according to the Associated Press.
Reloaded: State Rep. Tom Brinkman is again trying to expand Ohio’s conceal-carry law to allow anyone age 21 or older to carry a concealed deadly weapon (not just a handgun) without needing a license. Brinkman, a Cincinnati Republican who introduced House Bill 227, noted in an interview that he’s filed similar bills every legislative session since he took office in 2001. While it’s never passed, Brinkman said it helps move forward other bills that loosen gun restrictions, such as proposed legislation to lift penalties for motorists who don’t tell law enforcement about concealed handguns in their vehicles. “I’d like to dive right in the pool. Others wanted to dip their toe in,” Brinkman said. “And what my bill does is it lets them get further and further wading into the pool.”
Not your average college job search: Alex Pan, an 18-year-old Denison University student living in Ohio, has filed to run for in the Democratic primary for New York City comptroller (the chief financial officer of the city). Pan, who’s from Queens, told City & State New York that he recognizes that “It would be crazy for an 18-year-old who has (the stock trading app) Robinhood to instantly be the fiduciary of a $240 billion pension fund.”
Due to a 1957 Ohio Supreme Court ruling that utilities are not required to refund their customers for fees later struck down as unlawful, lawmakers have been trying to enact legislation to force such refunds. This year, Senate Bill 95 would require refunds on improper charges, as well as regulate sub-metering in Ohio. It received a first committee hearing Wednesday. During the 132nd Ohio General Assembly, which was in 2017 and 2018, House Bill 247 required refunds, but it died.
The following five groups lobbied on HB 247. A recently passed bill in the Ohio legislature that repeals the controversial HB 6 orders refunds for some of the money FirstEnergy collected.
2. Ohio Manufacturers’ Association
3. Ohio Power Company, doing business as AEP Ohio
4. Duke Energy
5. Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund
Mandi Merritt is joining Jane Timken’s Senate campaign as communications director. An Ohio native, Merritt was previously national press secretary for the Republican National Committee in 2020 and the Ohio communications director for the RNC in 2018.
Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman
Michael Farley, vice president of government affairs and general counsel, Ohio Insurance Institute
Tyler Herrmann, special counsel to the chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission
Robert Lucas, Ohio’s 12th governor (1781-1853)
Straight From The Source
“I believe Matt Gaetz.”
– U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Champaign County Republican, on CNN. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican, has denied he had sex with a 17-year-old girl, an allegation that is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. Jordan’s comment led to a flurry of comebacks on Twitter — again questioning whether Jordan knew about sexual abuse of student athletes when he was a wrestling coach at Ohio State University in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Jordan has denied knowledge of Dr. Richard Strauss’ abuse, despite former OSU athletes saying he did.
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