Minority report:Ohio Senate Democrats’ priorities for the next two years will include (among other issues) job creation and training, boosting education funding, gun control, and combatting infant mortality and child poverty, caucus members said during a Statehouse meeting with reporters Wednesday. The nine-member caucus also indicated that they would be open to a gas-tax hike, if the Republican-controlled House passes one. “None of us want to see an increase in any taxes,” Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko said. “But there’s no other way around this — we have to fix our roads. We have to fix our public transportation.”
Show me the money: Former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann and an ex TV reporter are suing the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System to release details on $300 million it has invested with funds controlled by Glouston Capital Partners, a Boston-based investment company,cleveland.com’s Andrew Tobias reports. One of the investments the suit seeks to find out more about is in Drive Capital, a private-equity fund co-founded by Mark Kvamme, a venture capitalist who is close to former Gov. John Kasich.
Mayor Pete: Cleveland.com’s Seth Richardson caught up with South Bend Mayor and Democratic rising star Pete Buttigieg, who was in Parma promoting his new book Tuesday. Despite what would be a longshot bid for president in 2020, the 37-year-old Harvard grad and former Rhodes Scholar is seriously considering it. “And he feels free to be himself,” Richardson writes.
Brown vs. Trump: Aspiring Democratic presidential candidate Sherrod Brown on Wednesday announced his backing for tax and Medicare proposals that have little chance of passing the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, but will give him ample opportunity to contrast himself with President Trump as he visits early presidential primary states,cleveland.com’s Sabrina Eaton reports. “We know from the Trump tax cut … that trickle-down economics never works,” the Ohio Senator said. “There is little economic growth coming from a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich, but where you really get economic growth is when you put money into the pockets of middle class and lower income taxpayers who then start spending that money.”
Doctor Who: The State Medical Board of Ohio on Wednesday approved 39 new doctors to recommend Ohio medical marijuana. Search here for the 413 by zip code or physician name.
Sick note: The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous per curiam, or unsigned, decision that applicants for workers’ compensation benefits can be subjected to additional medical exams if the state explains why they’re necessary. The court heard a case involving Mary Mignella, a former Warren City Schools teacher who applied for permanent-total-disability benefits. The Ohio Industrial Commission suspended her application until she submits to a second examination, which the court affirmed was its right.
Google the details: Lt. Gov. Jon Husted called news that a Google affiliate is opening a $600 million data center in New Albany as further strengthening “our case that Ohio is becoming the tech capital of the Midwest.” Mark Williams of the Columbus Dispatch reports that details of what Google will be doing at the Ohio center are scarce.
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail… Ohio is the only state lacking an established process to create an action plan to confront Alzheimer’s and dementia, which cost Medicare and Medicaid billions annually. Sens. Steve Wilson, a Cincinnati-area Republican, and Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat, want to change that with Senate Bill 24, which would create a task force that would gather information to help the state with detection and diagnosis, quality of care, health system capacity and other issues. A similar bill has failed in the past.
Transplant transparency: Legislation is being drafted in the U.S. Senate to toughen transplant regulations after a woman who received a uterus transplant at the Cleveland Clinic had to get it removed, the Washington Post reports. Lindsey McFarland nearly died from the transplant, due to a Candida albicans infection in the uterus. The Miami organization that provided the organ allegedly never disclosed the infection to the surgical team, the Post reported.
Food for thought: Ohio food stamp households will receive some of their March food aid early. Households will receive 50 percent of their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits Feb. 22 and the remainder on their regularly assigned March date. This is because February benefits came in mid-January due to the government shutdown. The state expects to return to the standard calendar in April, barring another shutdown, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
A little bird told us: The U.S. Senate has passed a package of bills “to fund the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, as well as a migratory birds conservation program sponsored by Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman,” Eaton reports.
Rocky road: Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks told House Finance Committee members Wednesday that without a new source of funding for transportation projects, “our system of state and local roadways will fall into a dangerous state of disrepair,” according to Jim Siegel of the Dispatch. Marchbanks didn’t specifically endorse raising the state’s 28-cents-per-gallon gas tax, though he said the state would raise $67 million for each penny increase in the tax.
Packing for school: At least 43 Ohio schools arm their teachers and staff, according to the results of a state survey of more than 5,000 school buildings. As the Dayton Daily News’ Laura Bischoff reports, state officials wouldn’t reveal which school districts have armed staff.
Warranting a closer look: DeWine on Wednesday created a task force to find ways to improve Ohio’s “overwhelmed” system for issuing and serving arrest warrants. In a release, the governor said it’s “simply impossible for law enforcement to keep up” with the current number of warrants issued. The 27-member panel has until June 3 to issue its recommendations.
Settled: Sen. Joe Uecker, a Cincinnati-area Republican, is paying $20,000 to settle a lawsuit over whether he could block someone from Facebook without violating the person’s constitutional rights, the Enquirer’s Jackie Borchardt reports. Anthony Famby was blocked from Uecker’s page after commenting on Uecker’s vote on an abortion bill.
Stephanie McCloud is the new administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
1. Of all the positions in state government you could have gone for, why BWC administrator?
“I have a long, strong background in worker’s compensation. …I’ve actually enjoyed it quite a bit. I was really excited about the innovative things that we are going to be able to do at BWC and excited about being able to serve the employers and the injured workers in new ways.”
2. Tell me more about the innovations that BWC is doing.
“First of all, the substance abuse epidemic – we are looking to increase some of our safety grant programs for helping employers who employ folks with substance abuse issues. We are also looking at some data and analytics. The bureau has a lot of data, but I don’t think it’s been able to be organized in the kind of constructive way it needs to be to …for trending, for results, for injuries, for being able to use kind of a predictive model. We’ve not been able to do that in the past.”
3. There was some big news a few weeks ago about cutting employers’ workers’ comp rates by an average of 20 percent. Is there a likelihood of more cuts coming?
“We don’t know. Obviously, if the good work we do in safety continues to result in claims going down and the good work that our employers are doing and the good work, frankly, that injured workers are doing…if those trends continue, there may be an opportunity for that.”
4. I read that you’re going to place an emphasis on improving customer service. Can you tell me more specifics about that?
“As you can imagine, the bureau sends out voluminous amounts of mail and voluminous amounts of standard [form] letters [to employers and workers]. We’re re-reviewing all the standard letters. We are looking at our call rates; we are looking at our call answers – how long those are taking. …The other thing that we’re focusing on…is simplification. …to simplify our communications, improving our technology so [workers and employers] can get information easier and/or faster.”
5. What’s something interesting about you that people might not know?
“I used to belong to a lawyer theater group when I was in law school and just out of college… called the Lawyers Performance Ensemble. …I still run into lawyers that I met through there.”
On the Move
Dan Dodd, a former Democratic lawmaker, has been hired as vice president of government relations for ZHF Consulting, the lobbying arm of the law firm Zaino Hall & Farrin LLC. Dodd will remain executive director of the Ohio Association of Independent Schools.
Lindsey Short, state Rep. Niraj Antani’s legislative aide, has been named“Employee of the Quarter” by Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.
C. William O’Neill, Ohio’s 59th governor (1916-1978)
Straight From The Source
“Ending a 104-year streak is gonna be fun.”
– Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper, tweeting about the fact that Delaware County hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1916.
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