Statehouse: Week in Review (11.10.17)

Exterior of the Ohio Statehouse on an overcast day in

Legislative Report Update  (Week of: 11.10.17)
Source: Neil Clark, Grant Street Consultants

ABORTION

Former Rep. Margaret Conditt has taken a position on the Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) Board of Trustees, the anti-abortion group announced Tuesday.

ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined members of the Columbiana County Drug Task Force in East Liverpool Tuesday to announce a 756-count indictment of 100 people linked to a large-scale fentanyl, carfentanil, heroin and cocaine trafficking ring in northeast Ohio. Authorities began serving arrest warrants as part of Operation Big Oak (Breaking into Gangs/Opiate Addiction Knockdown) on Monday.

Gov. John Kasich met with 200 faith leaders Thursday to enlist them in the fight against drug abuse and addiction, saying that the state has been making progress on many fronts but has hit setbacks because of the addition of fentanyl. He noted that the state has had success in shutting down pill mills and reducing the number of opioids that are prescribed. But he said the problem has become the addition of powerful synthetic drugs to regular street drugs.

Ohio drug courts will be getting extra help tracking a defendant’s use of controlled substances through the state’s prescription drug monitoring system after the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy announced this week that it is giving judges and court personnel access to the system.

AGING

The average American’s lifetime risk of using a nursing home is substantially greater than previous research has suggested, a recent RAND Corporation study has found. Among persons age 57 to 61, 56 percent will stay in a nursing home at least one night during their lifetime, according findings published online by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Previous studies have generally corroborated the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ estimate that only 35 percent of older Americans are likely to use a nursing home in their later years.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Kasich administration provided an update Monday on the governor’s community-police collaborative to the Ohio Attorney General Task Force on Criminal Justice and Mental Illness, co-chaired by former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton. Executive Director Karhlton Moore of the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s (ODPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) brought participants up to speed on community-policing standards and previewed the final policy priority still to be certified.

FY18-19 BUDGET

State tax collections are slightly ahead of estimates for the past month and the fiscal year so far, as the two major sources of revenue were essentially on target for October, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). October tax revenues of $1.78 billion were up $3.37 million or 0.2 percent over projections for the month. For FY18 to date, revenues of $7.11 billion are $20.7 million or 0.3 percent ahead of estimates.

A conference committee is scheduled next week for legislation that’s been identified as a vehicle for addressing budget issues. The SB8 (Gardner-Terhar) Conference Committee, chaired by Sen. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), is set to meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15 in the Senate Finance Hearing Room.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

Businesses that take certain steps to improve cybersecurity would get safe harbor against legal claims should they experience a hack that compromises consumer data under legislation that was recently introduced and was touted by Attorney General Mike DeWine and sponsor Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) on Friday. DeWine said SB220 (Hackett) is the first legislation addressing cybersecurity issues to come out of his office’s CyberOhio Initiative.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce says sluggish corporate capital investment dragged down the state’s prosperity index in the 3rd quarter of 2017, despite stable business profits. Dropping slightly from 5.1 on a 10-point scale to a “steady” 5.0, the economic index is nonetheless “biased to the negative,” according to the chamber. Ohio underperformed in three out of four categories measured by the chamber — profits, workforce and especially capital investment — with .5 points off expectations.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Lawmakers and other criminal justice leaders wrapped up the Council of State Government’s (CSG) Ohio Justice Reinvestment Project 1.0 seven years ago to the month and regrouped Thursday for Justice Reinvestment 2.0 (JR2.0), an effort meant to create a coherent public safety policy for the state even it doesn’t simplify the Ohio Revised Code’s “convoluted” sentencing statutes, in the words of CSG.

DEATH PENALTY

Gov. John Kasich’s office said Thursday he denied a clemency request from Alva Campbell Jr., the next person scheduled to be executed by the state.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Preservation Ohio, the state’s oldest statewide historic preservation organization, recently named 11 properties to its annual list of Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites. Preservation Ohio has compiled the list since 1993.

Communities across Ohio will receive grants to improve streets, sidewalks, bridges, public facilities and infrastructure. The Ohio Development Services Agency recently awarded grants totaling more than $2.5 million to 10 communities through the Community Development Critical Infrastructure program.

EDUCATION

A substitute custodian whose schedule is irregular with respect to days of service, hours worked and school-building assignment is not considered a “regular nonteaching school employee” under an Ohio law that would qualify him for better wages and benefits, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled this week in State ex rel. Singer v. Fairland Local School Dist. Bd. of Edn.

Eight schools throughout Ohio are the first recognized by the state as Purple Star schools, a designation marking their “major commitment to serving students and family connected to our nation’s armed forces.” The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and Superintendent Paolo DeMaria recently announced the Purple Star award recipients, who will maintain their designations for two years, then must reapply for continued recognition. Schools recognized include the following: Beverly Gardens Elementary School, Mad River Local Schools, Montgomery County; Caldwell High School, Caldwell Exempted Village Local Schools, Noble County; Hamilton Township High School, Hamilton Local Schools, Franklin County; Liberty Middle School, Olentangy Local Schools, Delaware County; Oak Harbor Middle School, Benton-Carroll-Salem Local Schools, Ottawa County; Swanton Middle School, Swanton Local Schools, Lucas County; Trebein Elementary School, Beavercreek City Schools, Greene County; and Wooster High School, Wooster City Schools, Wayne County.

The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) will hold its annual Capital Conference next week, starting Sunday, Nov. 12 and ending Tuesday, Nov. 14. The conference, which will again be at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, features more than 150 learning sessions, the 19th annual Student Achievement Fair and an education trade show OSBA says is the nation’s largest.

The State Board of Education’s Executive Committee reviewed Superintendent Paolo DeMaria’s proposed goals for the year Tuesday, discussing suggested additions and revisions to be brought before the full board at its regular meeting next week. The committee also delayed discussion on a policy regarding gifts for the Ohio Teacher of the Year while it awaits further information.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is offering one-day sessions to assist school districts with equity planning. “Participants will review their Equitable Access Analysis Tools to determine equity gaps, conduct root-cause analyses and identify strategies to address gaps while also setting goals to measure progress,” the department said on its website. Events will be held on Thursday, Nov. 30 at Quest, 8405 Pulsar Place, Columbus 43240 and on Friday, Dec. 1 at R.G. Drage Career Center, 2800 Richville Dr. SE, Massillon 44646.

The Senate Education Committee voted Wednesday to approve a measure meant to improve students’ access to computer science courses, after adding language to ensure families know that taking the courses in lieu of algebra II could affect college admissions. The legislation, HB170 (Duffey-Carfagna), includes provisions allowing students to use computer science coursework as a substitute to fulfill graduation requirements in math or science. Committee debates in both chambers have brought to light concerns that such substitutions will leave some students unable to meet university admissions criteria, particularly if they forego algebra II.

Local school leaders and educators from across the state urged senators Wednesday to pass Sen. Matt Huffman’s (R-Lima) education deregulation measure, saying the freedom from state mandates it proposes will save them time and money and let them focus more on educating students.

In three presentations before the House Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty Thursday, advocates for providing school-based behavioral health services argued that such services can help students pay attention, learn and subsequently help close the achievement gap.

ELECTIONS 2017

A ballot proposal that would have changed the way state agencies pay for prescription drugs failed by a wide margin on Tuesday, as around 80 percent of voters rejected State Issue 2.

Supporters of Issue 1 said Tuesday night’s victory will usher in a new era for crime victims, whom they said won’t have to rely on having a prosecutor or judge to do the right thing and give crime victims a voice in court with those rights now enshrined in the Ohio Constitution.

Tuesday’s General Election saw many mayoral incumbents hold on to their seats for another term, while new mayors will be taking over in Toledo and Youngstown.

Voters across Ohio approved 87 of 122 public school tax issues during the Nov. 7 general election, according to the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA). The 71 percent rate of approval by voters was a decrease from the November 2016 general election when Ohio voters approved 115 of 150 school tax issues for a passage rate of 77 percent.

The Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) reports that 43 of 50 or 86 percent of the parks and recreation-specific levies on the ballot in communities through the state Tuesday passed. Those that passed included all six Ohio metropolitan park districts which placed levy requests on the November ballot. Four of those included additional funding.

Twenty-two Ohio library systems went to the ballot Tuesday to seek public funding support, and all were successful, including the one third of requests seeking new levies.

The Ohio Supreme Court reports that voters in 53 Ohio counties elected 109 municipal court judges on Tuesday, Nov. 7 with eight challengers defeating incumbent judges in Butler, Cuyahoga, Lucas and Summit counties.

Voters approved 12 of 13 local children services levies on Tuesday including Vinton County, which passed its first levy, a combined one for child protection and senior services.

A total of 23 levies that support older Ohioans were on the Tuesday’s ballot for renewals or increases and all but one passed.

For the most part, counties approved local levies on the Tuesday ballot for both developmental disabilities and behavioral health programs, with each area having just one loss.

Gov. John Kasich weighed in on Tuesday’s election results that saw Democrats make big gains in other states, saying he believes that it was a message that negativity is not the way to go in politics.

Less than one out of three registered voters cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election, according to the Ohio secretary of state’s office. There are currently 7.9 million registered voters in Ohio, but there were a little less than 2.4 million ballots cast for a turnout of 29.86 percent. There are currently 35,705 outstanding absentee ballots statewide, and 24,990 outstanding provisional ballots.

ELECTIONS 2018

Less than a week after officially joining the crowded field of Democrats running for governor, Justice Bill O’Neill informed his colleagues on the Ohio Supreme Court he won’t sit on future cases that come before him. The move follows calls for him to resign his post given his candidacy announcement, and a cautionary statement from Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor about his professional and ethical obligations.

The Ohio Supreme Court listed former U.S. Rep. Zach Space, a Democratic candidate for auditor in 2018, among 191 law licenses it was suspending for failing to register in the upcoming biennium. Space told the Columbus Dispatch that he hadn’t been practicing law. He had put his license on inactive status while in Congress between 2006 and 2011, and had gone back on active status in 2011, but didn’t practice, he told the newspaper.

Attorney General Mike DeWine’s gubernatorial campaign launched its first television ad Wednesday, focusing on his work to address the state’s opioid crisis. The ad, titled “Fight the Crisis,” will appear on cable television and online statewide.

Ohio Fifth District Court of Appeals Judge Craig Baldwin Wednesday pulled nominating petitions to run for the Ohio Supreme Court in 2018, according to his campaign.

A Super PAC that endorsed Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel for U.S. Senate in early October announced Wednesday morning that they would be closing operations and refunding contributions. Organizers of Rev 18, short for Revolution 18, had said they would focus on social media advertising, grassroots organizing and online activism to promote candidates they said go against the Republican establishment. It officially formed on Aug. 25.

Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) has filed a concurrent resolution seeking to remove Justice Bill O’Neill from the Ohio Supreme Court. “Justice O’Neill must be removed from the Supreme Court to restore the public’s faith in the judiciary as a fair and independent body. His declaration as a partisan candidate for governor is a clear violation of Rule 4.5 of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct,” Antani said.

Opening with an emotional account of the day her oldest son survived an overdose, gubernatorial candidate and current Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor unveiled her plan to address the opioid epidemic at a press conference in Dayton Thursday. She said she would push for a 10 year, up to $1 billion bond initiative to fully build treatment capacity through offering seed money to the private sector.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley announced her “bold new policy for Ohio” Thursday at The City Club of Cleveland, where she detailed her plan to provide universal, free community college for Ohioans, calling a post-secondary credential “the new benchmark for a family-sustaining career.”

The following endorsements were made over the week:

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in October, down from 4.2 percent in September, as the nation added 261,000 jobs over the month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Friday.

ENERGY

The American Petroleum Institute (API) said Wednesday that, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) finalizes 2018 Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes, Congress needs to recognize the mandate is broken and that it’s time to repeal or significantly reform it.

ENVIRONMENT

Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office Friday announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Rover Pipeline LLC for numerous drilling fluid spills that led to the contamination of state waters. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), alleges that Rover has caused multiple spills across the state, including a notable spill in April, in which approximately 2 million gallons of bentonite were discharged into wetlands in Stark County.

Even though scientific evidence clearly shows climate change is occurring and humans are a major contributor, it remains difficult for scientists to effectively convey that message to policymakers, two renowned Ohio State University (OSU) climatologists said Wednesday at the Columbus Metropolitan Club. Both Ellen Mosley-Thompson, director of OSU’s Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center and her husband Lonnie Thompson, an OSU earth sciences professor and ice core expert, spoke.

The harmful algal bloom (HAB) that formed on Lake Erie this year had a severity index (SI) of eight, making it a “severe bloom” roughly equivalent to the 2013 HAB, which was the third worst bloom observed this century, according to a seasonal assessment from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

FEDERAL

A federal inspector general has recommended that Ohio pay the federal government $29.5 million after finding the state improperly included individuals in its Medicaid enrollment numbers. Under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIRPA), states may receive bonus payments from FFY09-13 to offset costs if they increased their enrollment of qualifying children in Medicaid above the baseline enrollment of qualifying children for a given year, as specified in guidance from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The Office of the Inspector General in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said some of the bonus payments Ohio received were not allowable because state officials overstated enrollment.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) was one of several Senate Republicans calling for Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore to step aside if allegations made to the Washington Post were true. The Post reported that one woman alleged Moore had sexual contact with her when she was 14 and he was 32, and that three other women said he had or sought dates with them when they were teenagers and he was in his early thirties working as an assistant district attorney.

GAMING/GAMBLING

Casino and racino revenues for October were up over a year ago, according to new revenue numbers released on Tuesday. The Ohio Casino Control Commission said the state’s four casinos reported $66.5 million in revenues in October, up from $62.6 million in October 2016 and down from $67.1 million in September.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

As of the Monday 4 p.m. deadline, the Ohio Senate President’s Office received applications from the following individuals interested in replacing former Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) in the District 1: Roy Klopfenstein (Haviland) operational and managing director at Alvin Klopfenstein & Sons, Inc. (crop farm) and Paulding county commissioner; Findlay High School principal Craig Kupferberg; State Rep. Rob McColley (Napoleon); retiree Frank Miller Jr. (Ottawa); State Rep. Craig Riedel (Defiance); and police officer/Ohio High Patrol Jeff Smalley (Bellefontaine).

Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina), speaking with Hannah News following the Senate’s nonvoting session on Tuesday, noted that the majority caucus does not yet have a schedule for conducting interviews to determine the replacement for former Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay). He did say they expect to have that position filled by early December, at the latest.

In an open letter released Tuesday, 13 Democratic women serving in the General Assembly and more than 20 women staffers said the Legislature is not doing enough to respond to sexual harassment. Referencing the national discussion of the issue of sexual harassment extending from Harvey Weinstein and the entertainment industry to state legislatures across the nation, Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), the primary signatory of the letter, said “the conversation has shifted to the pervasive sexual harassment that exists within state legislatures across the nation.” The letter goes on: “This behavior is not a joke. It is not playful banter. It is not flirting. This behavior exploits an elected position of power to create a hostile and intimidating work environment for women whose jobs are often in the hands of the perpetrator.”

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board announced that the Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting will be held on Thursday, Dec. 7 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Legislation licensing art therapists in Ohio will soon be introduced, Rep. Marlene Anielski (R-Walton Hills) announced Thursday. During a wide-ranging Statehouse press conference on suicide prevention resources available throughout Ohio, Anielski said her forthcoming bill will allow art therapists to gain state recognition and help more people who are struggling with mental health issues. She showed a video featuring Second Lady Karen Pence, who has chosen art therapy as an issue for which to advocate while Vice President Mike Pence is in office.

In other action, the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out SB77 (Coley) which creates the “KylerStrong Foundation” license plate; HB219 (Boccieri) which address when a speed limit sign becomes effective; and the Senate Education Committee reported out SB105 (Tavares) which designates October as “Ohio Principals Month”; and HB170 (Carfagna-Duffey) which address curriculum requirements for computer science.

GOVERNOR

Appointments made during the week include the following:

– Tammy K. Chapman of Springboro (Warren County) to the Advisory Board on Amusement Ride Safety for a term beginning Nov. 2, 2017, and ending Sept. 29, 2023.
– Vivek Narendran, M.D. of Cincinnati (Hamilton County), Thelma Patrick, Ph.D. of Columbus (Franklin County), and Mona R. Prasad, D.O. of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Maternity and Newborn Advisory Council for terms beginning Nov. 2, 2017, and ending Oct. 31, 2022.
– Carl J. Denbow, Ph.D. of Athens (Athens County) reappointed to the Board of Trustees of the Martha Kinney Cooper Ohioana Library Association for a term beginning Nov. 6, 2017, and ending Sept. 15, 2021.
– Duane H. Frager of Madison (Lake County), Mark A. Tyler of Kirtland (Lake County), and Beverly A. Vitaz of Concord (Lake County) reappointed to the Lakeland Community College Board of Trustees for terms beginning Nov. 6, 2017, and ending Oct. 12, 2022.
– Jose C. Feliciano Jr. of Aurora (Portage County) and Luis “Tony” Ortiz of Beavercreek (Greene County) reappointed to the Commission on Hispanic-Latino Affairs for terms beginning Nov. 7, 2017, and ending Oct. 7, 2020.
– Kelly J. Roush, D.C. of Jackson (Jackson County) to the State Chiropractic Board for a term beginning Nov. 8, 2017, and ending Nov. 1, 2019. ‘- Mickey E. Frame, D.C. of Sylvania (Lucas County) to the State Chiropractic Board for a term beginning Nov. 8, 2017, and ending Nov. 1, 2021.

Bills signed by the governor include the following:

– HB118 TAX COMPLAINT DISMISSAL (MERRIN D) To expressly prohibit the dismissal of a property tax complaint for failure to correctly identify the property owner. Eff. 90 days.
– SB3 WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT (BEAGLE B, BALDERSON T) To revise the laws governing the state’s workforce development system, programs that may be offered by primary and secondary schools, certificates of qualification for employment, and the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Agency, and to designate the first week of May as In-Demand Jobs Week. Eff. 90 days.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

A recent study conducted by the JP Morgan Chase Institute, a research group backed by the bank of the same name, shows that out-of-pocket health care expenses are on the rise across the nation. The study was fueled by transaction data taken from over 2.3 million Chase account holders (including 145,600 Ohioans) aged 18 to 64 between 2013 and 2016, using their balance and spending information to draw conclusions. Those accounts were “de-identified” before data were gathered, according to the authors.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma on Tuesday discussed her vision for the future of Medicaid and unveiled new CMS policies that are meant to encourage states to propose innovative Medicaid reforms, reduce federal regulatory burdens, increase efficiency and promote transparency and accountability, in an address at the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD) Fall Conference in Arlington, VA.

There have been 241 cases of Lyme disease in 60 counties in 2017, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said Thursday. The number of cases is well above last year’s total of 160, ODH said in a news release. Cases of Lyme disease have steadily increased in the state over the past five years, with 93 cases in 2013, 119 in 2014 and 154 in 2015. The increase coincides with the increase of blacklegged ticks in Ohio.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Ohio State University’s Board of Trustees voted last week to approve a salary increase and bonus for President Michael Drake, and to continue the university’s discount on summer tuition and fees. Drake’s base pay will increase 2 percent, and he will receive a “performance payment” equal to a quarter of his salary, according to OSU.

Dr. Raphael Pollock, a member of Ohio State’s surgery faculty since 2013, has been appointed interim director of Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, the university said Friday.

JUDICIAL

The Ohio Supreme Court Attorney Services Fund reports that nearly $9 million in fees collected from lawyers supported attorney services programs in Ohio during the last fiscal year. The figure comes from the fund’s 2017 annual report, which was released Thursday. The fund includes attorney registration, late registration, reinstatement fees and other sources as outlined in the Rules for the Government of the Bar. The Supreme Court allocated $9.6 million from the fund at the beginning of FY17 which ran July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017, spending a total of $8.9 million.

The Ohio Supreme Court appointed a five-judge commission in the judicial campaign complaint against James E. Sherron Tuesday as it takes up separate disciplinary matters involving former Mahoning County Auditor Michael Sciortino and former Dinsmore and Shohl partner Clyde Bennett II. Sherron is accused by sitting Middletown Municipal Court Judge Melynda Cook Howard of false campaign statements, including placing “judge” beside his name in political ads, even though he currently holds no judicial office.

MARIJUANA

The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program Friday announced the 11 recipients of level II cultivator provisional licenses, the first set of medical marijuana growers approved by the state.

MILITARY AFFAIRS

The Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee (OAATC) will be pursuing greater integration with the Ohio Aerospace & Aviation Council (OAAC), with strategies for that a primary topic of Tuesday’s OAATC meeting. The two groups share a number of members, though the OAATC has a legislative focus and the OAAC is business oriented.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Ohioans can begin hunting white-tailed deer with guns on Monday, Nov. 27, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Deer can be hunted with a shotgun, a muzzleloader .38 caliber or larger, a handgun .357 caliber or larger, straight-walled cartridge rifles .357 to .50 caliber, or bows from Monday, Nov. 27, to Sunday, Dec. 3, and the weekend of Dec. 16-17.

Ohioans should follow the state’s outdoor burning regulations and take necessary precautions when setting fire to debris this fall, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) said. According to Ohio law, outdoor debris burning is prohibited from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. through the end of November.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has approved more than $11.7 million in project funding through the Clean Ohio Trails Fund, NatureWorks and Recreational Trails Program grants, which will be used to improve outdoor recreational opportunities for Ohioans across the state.

Former Gov. Bob Taft and former First Lady Hope Taft have been presented with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Hall of Fame Award, the department announced Monday. Also recognized by ODNR was journalist Jane Beathard, who was honored with the department’s Cardinal Award.

PENSIONS

The Ohio Retirement Study Council discussed a recent proposal from the state’s largest pension system to curtail inflationary payments to retirees, prompted by a report from council staff analyzing how the proposal meshes with longstanding council principles on pension governance. Last month, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees endorsed a proposal to lower cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) from a fixed 3 percent to a variable increase tied to the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI), capped at 2.25 percent.

PEOPLE

The Ohio Municipal League (OML) announced this week it hired Rachel Massoud as its legislative advocate. Massoud is a Cincinnati native with experience at the municipal, county and state government levels, most recently as an aide to Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester).

Jane Campbell and other friends of Judie Bussler are planning a gathering in her memory on Sunday, Nov. 19 at Club 185, 185 E. Livingston Ave. in Columbus. It will run from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. with the program beginning at 4 p.m. Folks are asked to come to share stories of Bussler; photos can be emailed ahead of time to Campbell at mayorcampbell@yahoo.com.

Rep. Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) and Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) have been named “2017 Legislators of the Year” by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Ohio Arts Council (OAC) Executive Director Donna Collins has been elected to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) board of directors. She will serve a three-year term.

UTILITIES

The Office of Ohio Consumers Counsel (OCC) is appealing to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to protect electric ratepayers in the face of a threatened bankruptcy filing by FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), owner and operator of FirstEnergy power plants including beleaguered coal-fired facilities.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) says it’s taking a forward-looking approach to new technologies and services with the overhaul of administrative rules governing utility customers who generate their own electricity and sell back a portion to the grid – otherwise known as net metering. In Chairman Asim Haque’s absence, the commission approved rules prescribing the size of qualifying facilities and the rates local utilities will pay consumers for the excess electricity they generate. PUCO will submit final net metering rules for Ohio Administrative Code 4901:1-10-28 to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR).