Returning to Columbus: The summer recess appears to be winding down for state lawmakers, with two committees scheduled to convene this week: the House Civil Justice Committee meeting on Tuesday and the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee meeting Wednesday.
Move to amend: In House Civil Justice will be a first hearing for House Joint Resolution 1, which would make it harder for citizens to amend the Ohio Constitution by toughening the signature requirements. Republicans say outsiders come to the state with loads of cash, trying to influence politics at the ballot. However, defenders of the current system say the legislature doesn’t always move on policy the public wants unless they can see a constitutional amendment on the horizon. Republicans want HJR 1 on the Nov. 5 ballot, which means they have to get the bill out of both chambers before then.
Up for debate: In a sign that Democrats are not giving up on Ohio, the Buckeye State will be the site of the fourth Democratic presidential debate in October, cleveland.com’s Seth Richardson reports. The Democratic National Committee did not name the city, but it said the debate would be Oct. 15, with a possible second night on Oct. 16 if enough candidates qualify.
Power move: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has made another move aimed at wresting control of opioid settlement money away from local governments. Cleveland.com’s Eric Heisig reports that Yost has asked the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of appeals to halt a trial set for October for claims made by Cuyahoga and Summit counties against drug companies until the state’s lawsuits are tried.
Swift reaction: Heisig reports that Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, Prosecutor Michael O’Malley and Council President Dan Brady said they were “disturbed, frustrated and disappointed” about Yost’s filing. Summit County leaders expressed the same sentiment, cleveland.com’s Robin Goist reports. Gov. Mike DeWine also disapproves of the move,Heisig reports.
Strauss response: The Ohio State Medical Board has started re-examining about 1,500 sexual assault cases that it closed without taking action, after an administration task force found the board did nothing about a report warning that former Ohio State University team doctor Richard Strauss was sexually abusing students. Cleveland.com’s Jeremy Pelzer has details.
Suit up: The Ohio Democratic Party has sued Republican Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose over the voter purge scheduled for Sept. 6. The Dems want it halted, after a number of errors have been discovered. LaRose said he must follow state law, cleveland.com’s Laura Hancock reports.
Green light: The group pushing for a statewide referendum to overturn House Bill 6, Ohio’s new nuclear bailout law, cleared its final hurdle Friday to start collecting the almost 266,000 petition signatures needed to place the measure on the 2020 ballot. But as Pelzer writes, referendum supporters now only have about seven weeks to get the signatures.
Sad news: Kurt Tunnell, a prominent lawyer who served as former Gov. George Voinovich’s chief counsel, was struck by a vehicle and killed Saturday while riding his bicycle near Hilliard, Rita Price reports for the Columbus Dispatch. “Kurt served his community, his state, and his fellow man, and we will miss him greatly,” DeWine said in a statement.
Growing concerns: The Ohio Department of Agriculture says the suicide rate among farmers is more than twice that of the general population, and many factors out of their control can lead to stress. “Wondering if the weather will cooperate, long hours working alone – it can all affect a farmer’s mental well-being,” says a release from the department, which, along with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, is launching a campaign this week called #gotyourback to provide resources to farmers.
Takes a village: The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services announced a resource for grandparents and other relatives caring for children: FosterAndAdopt.jfs.ohio.gov/kinship. The site offers information about training and local services. In Ohio, about 100,000 grandparents and other relatives are caring for children when the parents are unable.
Pay bump: Non-union employees at Ohio State University will earn a minimum wage of $15 an hour next year, reports Jim Wilhelm for the Dispatch. The move also affects Wexner Medical Center employees.
Our apologies: In Friday’s Capitol Letter, in an item about former workers for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s campaign, we said one had jumped ship to work for Andrew Yang, but we got Yang’s name wrong.
Five things we learned from the May 7, 2019 financial disclosure of state Rep. Jack Cera, a Belmont County Democrat:
1. In addition to his $68,993 legislative salary, Cera also disclosed making $50,000 to $99,999 from his state pension, $1,000 to $9,999 from a lease agreement with Ascent Resources, an oil-and-gas exploration firm and less than $1,000 from interest on a savings account.
2. He disclosed no investments other than his state pension account and state deferred-compensation fund.
3. In addition to his personal residence, he owns a house in St. Clairsville.
4. He received $6,681.48 in state mileage reimbursements, among the highest of any legislator.
5. Gifts he disclosed include VIP tickets worth $259.72 from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland for the 2018 induction ceremony, baseball tickets worth $156 from the Ohio Cable Telecommunications Association and a $40 Appalachian Heritage luncheon for Heritage Ohio, Inc.
On the Move
Mike Gwin is leaving as regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to join former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign in Philadelphia.
Greg Cunningham, Ohio House assistant sergeant-at-arms
Straight From The Source
“During my 24 years at The Vindicator, it seemed as though someone in Valley politics was getting indicted all the time largely because it’s happened so often. Many fellow journalists have told me I have the best newspaper job in the world. I won’t disagree.”
– David Skolnick, politics and government reporter for the Vindicator in Youngstown, in a farewell column. With the Vindicator going out of business, Skolnick will start at the Tribune Chronicle and continue to cover Mahoning Valley politics and Youngstown.
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