Bill granting employers immunity from coronavirus lawsuits passes Ohio legislature: Capitol Letter


Rotunda Rumblings

Keeping it civil: The Ohio Senate on Wednesday approved a bill granting temporary immunity to Ohio businesses and other employers from coronavirus-related lawsuits, Andrew Tobias writes. The bill now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk for his signature. The House and Senate approved different versions of the bill weeks ago, but the bill languished until this week, when House leaders picked it back up.

Sharing is CARING: The Senate also approved sending $650 million in federal CARES Act money to local governments to cover coronavirus-related expenses. Per Tobias, the new money follows previous funding rounds of $350 million approved by the legislature and $175 million approved by the state Controlling Board for local governments. It still requires House approval to become law.

Dashing to November: A very specific group of Ohioans could face an additional hurdle while registering to vote, Tobias writes. After moving, Carol Conti-Entin said she was confused after she was asked to confirm why her name didn’t match the record on file with the state BMV. The difference? The state voter file didn’t include the hyphen, which the Secretary of State’s Office has banned for data-entry reasons. Elections officials said the issue, which also could affect people with apostrophes in their names, won’t cause problems for anyone proving their identity when voting.

Emcee Chris: Fox News’ Chris Wallace will moderate the first presidential debate scheduled for Sept. 29 in Cleveland, Seth Richardson reports. Wallace is a longtime broadcast journalist and moderated a presidential debate in 2016.

Another type of presidential debate: Attorneys for Kanye West and Secretary of State Frank LaRose are trading arguments before the Ohio Supreme Court about whether LaRose was justified in rejecting West’s attempt to appear on the Nov. 3 ballot as an independent presidential candidate. As Jeremy Pelzer writes, LaRose argues West’s petitions had “fatal” defects and that he had the power to reject them. West argues that LaRose exceeded his authority in keeping him off the ballot.

HB6 panel picks: House Speaker Bob Cupp on Wednesday revealed the lawmakers who will serve on his select committee to study whether to repeal and/or replace House Bill 6, Ohio’s controversial nuclear-bailout law. State Rep. Jim Hoops, a Napoleon Republican who voted for HB6 but against Larry Householder for speaker, will chair the committee, though overall eight of the 15 committee members voted against the legislation (five voted yes, while two members weren’t yet in the legislature at the time of the vote).

Skipping grades: Senate Bill 358 would continue flexibility on school accountability measures during the coronavirus pandemic. Emily Bamforth reports that the bill would cancel state testing and ask the federal government for a waiver on federal testing requirements. Several other states have headed in the same direction on testing, but the Trump administration is uneasy about canceling testing requirements again this fall.

Cases up, deaths down: The number of newly reported coronavirus cases Wednesday exceeded the 21-day rolling average, Laura Hancock reports. However, the number of deaths was significantly lower than the average.

COVID deaths hit almost everywhere: Deaths from coronavirus have now reached 84 of the state’s 88 counties. The exceptions are all sparsely populated – Morgan, Noble, Paulding and Pike counties. Cuyahoga leads for deaths with 582 reported by the state through Wednesday, while the highest rates per capita are Monroe (131.8 per 100,000), Mahoning (116.3) and Lucas (80.1), Rich Exner reports.

COVID job losses: A Cleveland State University study of 40 of the largest metro areas in the country finds that Cleveland is fourth-worst for job losses during the coronavirus crisis, down 12.2% from July 2019 to this past July. In Ohio, all three big metros lost big, but Cincinnati has rebounded strongly while Cleveland and Columbus metros are lagging, Exner reports.

Raising the bar: The newly formed Arab American Bar Association of Ohio seeks to serve the increasing number of attorneys of Arab American dissent, Hancock reports. The group, like similar organizations for women, Black attorneys and others, will focus on service, mentoring and social and legal engagement.

Carson city: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio on Tuesday asked the Office of Special Counsel to investigate whether Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson violated the Hatch Act by using official channels to distribute a Wall Street Journal opinion piece titled “We’ll Protect America’s Suburbs” that Brown contends is overtly partisan, Sabrina Eaton reports. Brown, a Democrat, said the Hatch Act doesn’t apply to elected officials like Trump, but “he sets the tone and he has used federal employees to help him carry out these political acts.”

Crowd control: U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Champaign County Republican, wants Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to answer for the city’s response to an unruly crowd outside the White House that swarmed Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky last week after President Donald Trump’s speech accepting the Republican nomination, writes Eaton. A letter Jordan sent Bowser claims that the nation’s capital, under her leadership, “has allowed radical left-wing violent extremists to commit senseless acts of violence and destruction.”

Freedom of choice: When Jordan and his House Freedom Caucus allies backed Republican primary candidates who faced GOP leadership-backed opponents, just three of their nine candidates prevailed, writes Ian Karbal of the Center for Responsive Politics. Several of the Freedom Caucus-backed candidates have drawn scrutiny for controversial previous statements, the publication reports.

Runway spending: Airports in Cuyahoga and Summit counties were among 405 airports around the country awarded more than $1.2 billion in airport safety and infrastructure grants by the Federal Aviation Administration, Eaton writes. Cuyahoga County Airport got $5,610,957 through the FAA’s Airport Improvement Program, while Akron Fulton International Airport got $3,732,938, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced.

Competitive advantage: Ohio’s legislative races this year, taken as a whole, are the 11th most-competitive in the nation, according to a new report from Ballotpedia. The Buckeye State’s score was based on the fact that 16.5% of legislative incumbents had contested primaries, about 81% of seats had two major-party candidates, and 20% of legislative races this year are for open seats.

New suit: A new group called Ohio Stands Up! has filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn DeWine’s emergency declaration due to the coronavirus, as well as the subsequent health orders his administration has issued. The governor’s orders, the suit states, “wipe away all that it means to be an American.” But as the Toledo Blade’s Tom Henry reports, the governor shrugged off the suit. “I’ve been sued many times,” he said.

Full Disclosure

Five things we learned from the Feb. 6, 2020 financial disclosure form filed by Gary Click, a Sandusky County Republican running for Ohio House District 88:

1. He’s a board member of and national legislative director for the Buckeye Christian School Organization.

2. His investments consist of two individual retirement accounts with Millennium Trust Company and PFS Investments.

3. At some point in 2019, Click owed at least $1,000 to Fremont Federal Credit Union, Cornerstone Community Credit Union, Citibank, Capital One, Synchrony Bank, Bank of America, and Mastercard.

4. Last year, he received a gift worth at least $75 from Fremont Brakes and Oil.

5. As the pastor of Fremont Bible Baptist Temple, Click holds a minister’s license to solemnize marriage.

On The Move

Tim Derickson, a former Ohio state representative, has been named senior director of food and agribusiness for JobsOhio. He previously was assistant director for the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose has been appointed to the National Association of Secretaries of State’s Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council.

Patricia “Trish” Harris was confirmed Wednesday by the Ohio Senate to become chief operating officer of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Harris, who first joined the BWC as an intern in 1991, succeeds Kevin Abrams, who retired Monday after nearly four decades with the agency.

Birthdays

Greg Cunningham, Ohio House assistant sergeant-at-arms

Straight from the Source

“I ain’t voting to repeal it, period.”

– State Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, explaining to the Cincinnati Enquirer that he opposes repealing House Bill 6 because he believes it’ll save ratepayers money compared to the default without the law, which requires renewable mandates.

Capitol Letter is a daily briefing providing succinct, timely information for those who care deeply about the decisions made by state government. If you do not already subscribe, you can sign up here to get Capitol Letter in your email box each weekday for free.





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