Ohio House holds first House Bill 6 repeal hearing: Capitol Letter

Rotunda Rumblings

Talking it out: The Ohio House held its first hearing on Thursday for legislation that would repeal House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout bill that’s the center of a federal corruption probe. As Jeremy Pelzer reports, The Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight heard testimony from sponsors of bills to repeal House Bill 6. GOP members rejected an attempt from committee Democrats to send the Republican-backed repeal bill to the floor.

New top doc: Dr. Joan Duwve, currently director of public health for South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control, will be the new director of the Ohio Department of Health, DeWine announced on Thursday. A former family physician and Ohio native, she previously worked for several Indiana governors and the Indiana University public-health school in Indianapolis. Per Tobias, Duwve is Ohio’s first permanent health director since Dr. Amy Acton resigned in June amid intensifying public criticism and harassment.

I’ll pass: Asked Thursday, DeWine avoided directly addressing the revelations from Wednesday that Republican President Donald Trump told Washington Post editor Bob Woodward on tape that he wanted to downplay the severity of coronavirus despite knowing the dangers, Seth Richardson reports. The recordings of Trump caused an uproar amongst his detractors, including Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown who – as the Columbus Dispatch’s Darrel Rowland points out is taking a bigger role in Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign – said Trump was gaslighting the public.

Summit rises: Summit County, which had been orange in last week’s coronavirus risk map, is now red, Laura Hancock reports. It joins five other counties in Level 3.

Jumping into the fray: The Trump campaign has intervened in several lawsuits over Ohio’s elections procedures, including on Thursday in a federal lawsuit challenging Ohio’s one ballot drop-box per county rule. Per John Caniglia, lawyers with Jones Day said in a court filing: “The Republican committees have a substantial interest in preventing changes to the ‘competitive environment’ at this late hour.” A judge set a Sept. 23 court hearing in the case.

Get your flu shot: DeWine, First Lady Fran DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted got poked on live TV with a flu vaccination in an attempt to spur others to get shots too. Meantime, the state reported 1,121 new coronavirus cases, higher than the 21-day average of 1,052.

Latest unemployment numbers: Both initial and continued unemployment claims fell again in Ohio last week, reports Jeremy Pelzer. For the week of Aug. 30 through Sept. 5, 17,983 Ohioans filed initial jobless claims, while 325,515 submitted continued claims.

Nay to ‘Ye: The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled against Kanye West in his effort to sue his way onto the Ohio ballot as an independent presidential candidate, Jeremy Pelzer reports. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose was justified when he rejected West’s candidate paperwork due to a signature mismatch by West’s running mate, justices unanimously ruled. Republican operatives have been trying to get West onto the ballot in Ohio and other swing states, reasoning he could siphon away votes from Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Nursing home deaths: 2,797 and counting. That’s the most recent total released Wednesday by the state for nursing home patients who have died with coronavirus. This group represents 65% of all known coronavirus deaths in Ohio, reports cleveland.com’s Rich Exner.

Be counted: An estimated 8% of Ohio’s households have yet to be counted in census 2020, with just a few weeks to go. Ohio’s estimated return rate of 91.8% is a combination of those self-responding (69.6%) and those counted through follow-ups by the census with non-responding households (22.2%). This places Ohio just above the national rate of 89.4%, Exner reports. Husted on Thursday made a pitch for the importance of being counted, saying lots of federal money or state and local programs depend on an accurate census count.

Not this year: The customary American-flag memorial of the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks won’t make its appearance this year on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. As Rick Rouan reports for the Columbus Dispatch, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board said the coronavirus pandemic and frequent protests outside the Statehouse factored into the decision. The state will keep flags, previously lowered after a Cleveland police detective was shot and killed earlier this week, at half-mast, though. A moment of silence also will be observed at 8:46 a.m.

Plant-based diet: Trump consistently touts the numerous automotive plants being built in Ohio and other industrial swing states in his campaign speeches. The problem, according to Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler, is that is false, with only five new automotive assembly plants being built since Trump took office – none of which are in Ohio. WaPo gave Trump “four Pinocchios,” its worst rating.

Closed shop: If you haven’t read it by now, Roger Sollenberger of Salon has embarked on deep dive into Cleveland-area pastor and Trump surrogate Darrell Scott’s activities with the now-defunct Urban Revitalization Coalition – a quasi-campaign group that was doing cash giveaways and trying to woo black voters to the president. The first two pieces in Sollenberger’s exposé of the group outlined how Scott may have illegally used his nonprofit groups to lobby Turkish businessmen.

Pushing back: Ohio’s “Big 6” cities could lose a net $309 million if the legislature were to repeal language authorizing employers to continue withholding local income taxes from former commuters who are now working from home, according to a new study from the Greater Ohio Policy Center, an urban policy think-tank. The GOPC netted out the percentage of the cities’ workers who commute to and from the suburbs. Two Republican lawmakers have proposed repealing the “commuter” tax language, which was tucked into March’s coronavirus relief bill. Read the study here.

Buckeye Brain Tease

There is an alley named after this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee — who is perhaps more famous for the band he currently fronts— in the downtown area of this Northeast Ohio city. Who is the artist and what is the city?

Email your response to [email protected] The first correct respondent will be mentioned in next week’s newsletter.

Thanks for responding to last week’s trivia question:

Which Ohio city has the longest name (in terms of the number of letters in its name)?

Answer: Washington Court House (20 letters) Capitol Letter reader Michael Myers of Pickerington, near Columbus, was the first to send in the correct answer.

On the Move

Kelsey Hopkins was hired as a policy associate by Groundwork Ohio, which champions high-quality early learning and healthy development strategies from prenatal to age 5.


Friday, Sept. 11: Autumn Mitchell, Ohio House Democrats’ policy adviser

Saturday, Sept. 12: Bailey Sandin, legislative aide to state Rep. Tavia Galonski

Sunday, Sept. 13: Jim Rhodes, Ohio’s 61st and 63rd governor (1909-2001)

Straight from the Source

“A lot of folks, particularly Republicans, you want to have some stability with policy and with management and what we’ve seen in the last years is constant turnover of appointees and unfilled positions and I’m not sure that’s what we bargained for with this guy.”

-Columbus attorney Charles “Rocky” Saxbe, a former Republican state representative and son of former U.S. Attorney General William Saxbe, quoted in the Associated Press on Operation Grant, the Republican-led effort to defeat GOP President Donald Trump. Operation Grant is the Ohio effort led by the national groups The Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump.

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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