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Weekly Advocacy Report - 6/02/2008

 Weekly Advocacy Report - 6/02/2008
A Weekly Update of Important Government and Legislative Issues



Congressional Senate Democrats Poised to Move on Medicare Bill Under Veto Threat

Senate Democrats will move forward with their own Medicare bill in the next two weeks, but a White House veto threat delivered during negotiations will almost certainly force a compromise later this month.



Gov. Ted Strickland this week appointed Nancy Rogers, dean of the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, as the state's next attorney general for a term ending "upon the election and qualification of a successor" - about five months out. Saying that she meets the qualifications he laid out two weeks ago of experience, maturity, judgment, integrity, intellect and management skills, Strickland added that "she goes above and beyond what I had a right to expect ... Social work degree, Yale law school, legal aid attorney. You can see why I am a happy governor."


Robert Owens, a Delaware County attorney, filed to run as an independent for attorney general in the November election, saying, "There is an inherent conflict between the law and party politics. The attorney general is the highest law enforcement official in Ohio and has a duty to protect the state and its citizens by upholding the law. That duty is challenged when influenced by the corrupting nature of partisan politics."



The many changes made by the Senate Finance and Financial Institutions Committee to the capital appropriations/budget corrections measure, HB562 (Hottinger), prompted the House to seek a conference committee - effectively delaying the Legislature's completing its work and adjourning for the summer. Tentatively, the General Assembly is planning to return on June 10 and/or 11 "at the earliest."



Changes to Ohio's concealed carry law were amended into the "castle doctrine" or self-defense bill, SB184 (Buehrer), before it went on to be passed by the House and accepted by the Senate. Among the changes, many of which were made at the request of gun-rights groups, include making it clear that the plain sight exception in prior law is gone except for mounting in a gun rack or if the gun is too long to fit in a container; changing the provision for penalizing the motorist who is stopped and fails to notify an officer of the concealed carry license by removing references to the dispatcher in that situation; and clarifying that collecting attorney fees only apply on an individual basis. The written test would not have to be retaken for a renewal license, but the physical demonstration remains. School safety zone language also states that these provisions would apply to any individual bringing a child into a school safety zone.



The economic stimulus package - HB554 (Hottinger) and HJR5 (Sears) - cleared the Legislature this week and is now headed to the governor for his signature. Senate changes that the House agreed to included substituting $200 million in Rainy Day Fund dollars for turnpike commission funds to support the Local Transportation Improvement Program - a move the governor is not entirely happy with. Senate leaders, using the same logic the administration used in pushing tobacco securitization, said that it is cheaper "to borrow from ourselves" for this "one time purpose" than to issue bonds and pay over 20 or 30 years. There was also an adamant, bipartisan group of legislators representing "turnpike counties" opposed to any siphoning of turnpike funds to other parts of the state.


On the historical preservation tax credit provisions, the Senate parsing of the $60 million per year appropriation stands, with $45 million going to projects "in the queue" and $15 million to new projects.. There is a $5 million limit per taxpayer.


In addition, the Senate approved using a portion of the Local Infrastructure Development Fund for broadband initiatives in conjunction with the public-private partnership Connect Ohio.


On the floor, the Senate added a provision banning the use of any of the biomedical funds in the bill for research "that would result in human cloning and the destruction of life" - a measure the governor is expected to line-item veto.



State Superintendent of Education Susan Tave Zelman announced Wednesday that she intends to step down as soon as a replacement takes office, although she has agreed to stay on in an advisory capacity to the State Board of Education until Dec. 1 to help in the transition. Her exit has been anticipated after Gov. Ted Strickland criticized her earlier this year for "lacking vision." However, he appeared with her at the announcement, noting her commitment to Ohio's children.


Strickland, who said he continues to believe that there should be a director of education appointed by the governor, said he has been promised he will have a say in the selection of the new superintendent. Qualities he would like to see include "a person who could partner with me in being a strong advocate for public education and assist in my efforts for change in K-12 education." He also said he would like to see someone from Ohio or who is familiar with the state's education system selected.


The State Board of Education Planning Committee heard presentations this week from search firms looking to help the state find a new superintendent. They included the Ohio School Boards Association, the National Association of School Boards of Education, Hudepohl & Associates and the one-man operation Edward Swartz of Wooster.


The "teacher misconduct II" bill, HB428 (Setzer), cleared the Senate and is now on its way to the governor. This latest version applies the same criminal offenses that absolutely bar educators from entering the profession or retaining a license to school bus drivers, and establishes the same penalties for making a false report to the state superintendent or state board alleging misconduct as apply in the local districts.


Amid controversy over procedural questions, the House Education Committee reported out SB57 (Coughlin), the bill creating special education vouchers, on a 12-11 vote. The bill remains under the threat of another gubernatorial veto. Amendments added this week to satisfy concerns of Rep. Clyde Evans (R-Rio Grande) include the following: 1) require the special education provider to report to the originating school district during the academic year on the progress of the child's individual education plan/IEP; 2) require a private provider to state in writing why it had rejected a student under the voucher; 3) require the provider to supply interested families with a "profile" of its enrollment costs, method of instruction, teacher qualifications, results from its program evaluations, and "any other information required by the department"; and 4) extend to Dec. 31, 2008, the deadline for the Partnership for Continued Learning to report on the effect of community school and existing EdChoice voucher initiatives on public school districts and their communities.



Even though the deadline has passed for action by the General Assembly, the House Commerce and Labor Committee held a second hearing this week on HB536, which requires employers to provide paid sick days to employees. While backers sat out the hearing, business groups did not.




Rep. John Widowfield (R-Cuyahoga Falls) resigned his House district seat Wednesday amid allegations of misuse of his campaign fund to purchase Ohio State University football tickets and then resell them at a profit after the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee launched an investigation earlier in the week. His successor appears to be Richard Nero, a software consultant from Hudson who won the March Republican primary for the seat.


House Republicans introduced HB576 (Bacon), which would give the inspector general independent investigation authority over all five statewide officeholders. He already has authority to investigate the governor and executive branch agencies and was recently given specific authority to investigate former Attorney General Marc Dann. As Speaker of the House Jon Husted said, "I don't want the state of Ohio ever to find themselves in the position again like we were where we have four constitutionally-elected officeholders who, if there was something to go wrong there, that there was no one to call."


The governor later said that he supports separate watchdogs for the General Assembly, judiciary and statewide elected officials rather than see the jurisdiction of the Office of Inspector General expanded.



The Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Interpreter Services released a reference guide for judges to use in cases requiring court interpreter services, including information on the proper steps to take to determine whether a party or witness requires a trained interpreter, whether the interpreter has the skills necessary and how to properly conduct the proceedings.




Gov. Ted Strickland signed an executive order creating an Anti-Poverty Task Force that he said will help him create immediate and long-term strategies to reduce the number of Ohioans living in poverty during a speech at the REAL Bottom Line Poverty Summit sponsored by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies at the Statehouse.



The Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission has begun discussions with House Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering) on the question of drastically revising and simplifying the Ohio Revised Code in ways that could cut its verbiage by half. The 88-page proposal, Simplifying the Ohio Revised Code, offers suggested line-by-line deletions and revisions.





The Board of Directors of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) submitted its first annual performance review of Administrator Marsha Ryan to the governor this week, rating her overall performance as "excellent/plus."

2008 -- Provided by
The Hannah Report - A Publication of Rotunda, Inc. & Hannah News Service


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