Archive for The Lobby

Kasich Administration Kick-Offs State Capital Budget Bill Process

The kick-off is a well-established football tradition most Ohioans are aware of. For serious students of state of Ohio government, the kick-off for the state of Ohio capital budget bill starts with a standard guidance memo from the Director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management. On September 25, 2017 Governor Kasich’s OBM Director Tim Keen released the FY 2019-20 state of Ohio capital budget guidance memo to state agencies and other organizations that may be eligible for state of Ohio capital funding in the upcoming capital bill.

Keen’s state of Ohio capital budget guidance memo is anything but exciting. It is a highly technical document closer to a legal analysis of what and how capital budget items for the state of Ohio should be submitted. Though boring, the OBM capital budget guidance memo has some very important information in it for those planning to seek capital budget requests. The guidance memo again defines “capital” items to include the “cost of acquiring, constructing, reconstructing, rehabilitating, remodeling, renovating, enlarging, improving, and/or equipping facilities.”

In addition, the memo outlines what projects are eligible for capital budget funding either from a state agency or a community project. State capital appropriations are funded primarily through the issuance of State bonds. Capital budget projects funded through State bonds must (1) fall within the authorized purposes for State bonded debt set forth in Article VIII of the Ohio Constitution and (2) meet federal tax law requirements for tax exempt bonds. To be eligible for bond funding in the State capital budget, a project must fall within the capital purposes authorized by the voters as set forth in the Ohio Constitution such as: highways; local government infrastructure; parks and recreation; natural resources and conservation; higher education facilities; elementary and second public school facilities; facilities to house branches and agencies of State government and their functions, including State office buildings and facilities; correction and juvenile detention facilities, mental health and development disabilities facilities; cultural, historical and sports facilities; and research and development (including coal research and development) and site development. Also, the Ohio Revised Code and federal tax law also contain provisions that govern the allowable uses of bond proceeds for capital projects, including the types of projects and expenditures, and the extent to which non-governmental entities (both private for-profit and not-for-profit) can benefit from the project.

Finally and most importantly for local communities, the Keen FY 2019-20 state capital budget guidance memo acknowledged that the upcoming capital budget will contain the popular community projects that funds arts, sports, economic development, historical, parks, health care and other priority community projects. The release of the Keen FY 2019-20 guidance memo in late September indicates planning and lobbying should begin right away for those seeking state of Ohio capital budget funding. It is anticipated Governor Kasich will rely on local business organizations to make recommendations for capital budget community project funding but members of the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate will have their own application project. The Keen FY 2019-20 guidance memo does not outline how large the capital budget bill will be and it is likely to start small in the eyes of Ohio’s Governor and grow larger as members of the Ohio General Assembly get more engaged in the process.

Ohio’s Biennial Budget Bill Tackles Opioid Crisis

With Ohio still in the throes of an opioid abuse epidemic, Ohio’s lawmakers and the Governor continued their work over the first half of 2017 on addressing the issue through provisions enacted in HB 49, the biennial budget bill. Recent reports have shown that opioid overdose deaths jumped over 32% last year, and are being fed by the emergence of newer more potent opioids such as fentanyl and carfentynil. Opioid abuse remains a significant problem that is negatively impacting not only state and local governments, but is tearing apart families and leading to a decrease in work productivity in those communities most affected.

HB 49 attempts to address the opioid crisis by appropriating $180 million over the biennium to attack it on several different fronts:

Mental Health and Addiction:

  • Requires Superintendent of Insurance to develop consumer education on mental health and addictions services insurance parity and creates a hotline to help consumers understand their benefits
  • Creates medication addiction treatment (MAT) standards for prescribers
  • Creates and funds the County Hub Program to combat opioid addiction to be administered by each ADAMHS board
  • Continuum of Care Services funding to ADAMHS boards for subsidized support psychotropic medication and MAT needs of indigent citizens
  • $20 million for recovery housing
  • $2 million for workforce recruitment and retention

Child and Family Welfare

  • Community Innovation Funds of $3 million in FY 2018 and $4 million in FY 2019 to provide funding for community projects that focus on support for families, assisting families in avoiding crisis and crisis innovation
  • Data collection and sharing by agencies that serve multi-system youth
  • Permits a county family and children first council to establish and operate a flexible funding in order to assure access to needed service by families and children in need of protective services

Criminal Justice

  • Creates a pilot program for mental health courts, including antipsychotic drugs that are administered in long-acting injectable form
  • Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) in specialized docket programs for drugs
  • Specific grants in support of addiction services alternatives to incarceration
  • Provide specialized re-entry services to offenders leaving prison
  • Creates the Psychotropic Drug Reimbursement Program, through which county jails are to be reimbursed by ODMHAS for psychotropic drugs dispensed to inmates

Wellness and Prevention

  • All Roads Lead to Home program includes a public service announcement (PSA) campaign, website and 24-hour hotline
  • $500,000 each fiscal year to support evidence based prevention in school settings
  • $1.5 million each fiscal year for ADAMHS boards to purchase the provision of evidence based prevention services from providers certified by ODMHAS

Local Government Fund (LGF) Priorities to help local communities:

  • Creates a new fund, Targeting Addition Assistance Fund (TAAF) in FY 2018 and 2019
  • Directs the funds to be utilized as follows:
  • $1 million by the Department of Health for Toxicology Screenings to reimburse county coroners for screenings for drug overdose deaths, and requires screenings for certain drugs
  • $5 million to the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to allocate grants to municipalities to provide services to those addicted to opiates and supplement grants distributed by Community Nonresidential Programs
  • $6 million for Substance Abuse Stabilization Centers to be allocated to local ADAMHS boards, a center to be located in each state psychiatric hospital region
  • $150,000 by ODJFS for Children’s Crisis Care facilities
  • $500,000 for Brigid’s Path Pilot for neonatal abstinence syndrome
  • $5 million through ODMHAS for ADAMHS boards to use for the Continuum of Care services
  • Continued funding for naloxone for local law enforcement through project DAWN in the county.

It is safe to say that the issue of battling the opioid crisis will remain an issue of concern for all levels of government, as the impacts of these HB 49 provisions are assessed, and the need for further state legislation is analyzed.

It is also worth noting that in addition to the HB 49 provisions, administrative rules went into effect on August 31st around the prescribing of opiates for acute pain. These rules limit prescribing for acute pain to seven days for adults and five days for minors.


Ohio Charter School Policy Webinar

Join us for a webinar on Aug 24, 2017 at 9:00 AM EDT

The recent state of Ohio budget battle left many funding, regulatory and policy issues unsettled for Ohio charter school management companies and sponsors. The Montrose Group, LLC, a Columbus based lobbying firm and leader in K-12 education policy advocacy, will provide an hour long, free webinar to review how Ohio charter school’s program works and what the policy agenda will be in the coming months for charter school management companies and sponsors.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Ohio Charter Schools Have Aggressive Statehouse Agenda in Wake of ECOT Battle, State Budget Funding & Kasich Vetoes

Ohio K-12 education policy issues generally slow down after the adoption of the state operating budget but that is unlikely to be the case in 2018. Driven by the battle to close the largest on-line charter school in the state and a series of state operating budget veto’s by Governor John Kasich, K-12 education policy issues will remain front and center as the Ohio General Assembly returns to the Statehouse in September following the traditional summer recess.

First, the saga of ECOT. The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) was formed in 2000 as the infancy of Ohio’s charter school movement was beginning. ECOT is an on-line charter school serving over 15,000 Ohio students. ECOT has run into a buzz saw at the Ohio Department of Education and charter school opponents when it struggled to document when all of their students were actually on-line for instructional purposes. Lawsuits were filed and will continue. ECOT is now facing an edict from the Ohio Department of Education that the funding that will be provided to them will be reduced. Though the school and state are fighting in court over the attendance documentation matter and the case is awaiting a decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Department of Education has decided to act by deducting about $2.5 million a month from its ongoing payments to ECOT based upon questionable attendance reports. In Ohio, charter schools, unlike traditional public schools, are funded a set amount of state funding based upon the students attending the charter schools. The ECOT battle continues and it is likely to end up in the Ohio General Assembly’s lap most likely following a potential Ohio Supreme Court decision on the attendance issues.

Second, charter school funding remains far behind traditional public schools in the state and the issue will not be dropped by charter schools who teach over 100,000 Ohio students. Charter or community schools in Ohio are public school districts that are privately managed that operate under state regulation and funded with a set state allocation that diverts $6000 per student who chooses not to attend their local school district but attends a public charter school. Facilities based charter schools also receive a 25% allocation of the state’s billion dollar line item for Targeted Assistance funding designed to support low wealth communities, and all charter schools receive special education funding for students with those needs. Nearly all fifty states operate charter schools as an alternative to struggling traditional public schools. It is a little known fact that traditional public school boards are the prime authorizers of charter schools across the nation. In Ohio, charter schools can be facilities based which are limited to being located in one of just under 40 struggling, primarily urban school district or Internet based which can serve students from anywhere in the state. All Ohio charter schools must be authorized by a sponsor and the performance of charter school sponsors has come under heavy scrutiny in recent years. As charter schools generally do not have access to state property tax funds and only receive 25% of the state’s Targeted Assistance funding, Ohio’s charter schools are drastically underfunded compared to their urban counterparts. The recently passed state of Ohio operating budget continued the state’s underfunding of Ohio’s charter schools and this contentious issue is unlikely to go away.

Third, Governor Kasich’s recent veto of several charter school provisions will likely stir additional Statehouse Debate. Of the 47 Kasich state operating budget vetoes, several impact charter schools. Kasich vetoed a provision in HB 49 that would exempt from state assessment and graduation requirements all students at chartered nonpublic schools in which at least 75 percent of students are children with disabilities who receive special education and related services. The Governor also vetoed an HB 49 provision requiring the Department of Education to increase from 20 percent to 60 percent the weight given to the “Progress” category score when computing a total score for the “Academic Performance” component of the Department of Education’s community school sponsor evaluation system. Additionally, in certain cases the provision would prohibit the Department of Education from rating a sponsor “Ineffective” if it scores a “zero” in the system’s Compliance or Quality Practices components. Another Kasich veto impacted a provision that permits Educational Service Centers (ESC) rated “Effective” to sponsor a community school anywhere in the state. Currently, most ESCs can only sponsor schools in their own and contiguous counties, unless they obtain permission from the Department of Education and sign a contract to do so. In addition, Kasich vetoed a provision of HB 49 that would allow a community school sponsor that had its sponsorship authority revoked due to the 2015-2016 sponsorship evaluations due to poor performance to renew its sponsorship for the 2017-2018 school year if the sponsor received at least a “3” or “4” out of “4,” in the Academic component and “zeros” for the Quality Practices and Compliance components of the sponsor evaluation. Governor Kasich also vetoed provisions eliminating the four-year program for new teachers that they complete in order to prepare for a professional educator license issued by the State Board of Education, and would allow Ohio’s public and private schools to choose between administering state achievement assessments in either paper or online formats. The Ohio General Assembly will return in September and overriding a number of the Governor’s vetoes on HB 49 is on the agenda. However, even if these vetoes are not overridden, debate in the Statehouse is likely to continue in the coming months.

Kasich Budget Passes Ohio General Assembly But House Overrides 11 Vetoes

Ohio House Bill 49, Governor John Kasich’s last state operating budget and was signed into law just fifteen minutes before the new fiscal year began in July 1, 2017. This was one ugly budget that started with tight revenues, saw a billion dollar revenue collapse in the middle of the legislative process, then had a Kasich record for line item vetoes and is ending with the first override of a Governor’s veto since 1979.

Ohio House Bill 49 started as a typical Kasich budget. Kasich’s budget agenda was aggressive—continue the Medicaid Expansion fueled by federal funding, enact tax reform, align K-12 education funding with student needs, and address the critical issue of workforce development facing the Ohio economy. In fact, the funding of the Medicaid Expansion under the federal government’s Affordable Care Act again gave the majority of state funding to Ohio’s healthcare program for the poor.

House Bill 49 hit early roadblocks in the Ohio House with Kasich’s tax reform plan scrapped and labeled again as shifting not reducing taxes. The House instead opted to keep what was in essence the same tax plan they had adopted in the last budget. Impacting the House’s budget plans was a joint announcement by the Governor, Speaker of the House and President of the Senate with just a couple weeks left in the House budget process that state revenue collections were continuing to decline and the budget now being debated would have to include $800M in less in spending. As tax increases were off the table from the start with the conservative Republican General Assembly, this put substantial spending cuts on the table.

The House enacted spending reductions without project major impacts to the Big Three of state government spending: Medicaid, K-12 education, and higher education. The House even added some tuition flexibility provisions for higher education and addresses at least some of the funding losses for many of the traditional K-12 school districts. The Ohio Senate, with nearly three weeks cut from their typical budget debate timeframe, worked in hyper-drive to address many of the additional funding cuts needed to meet what had now become a $1 B revenue shortfall. They also attempted to support higher ed and K-12 with policy and budget changes, but the Senate took a more aggressive line against the expansion of Medicaid by including a freeze on the expansion in 2018.

As the General Assembly reached a consensus on House Bill 49 through the Conference Committee, Governor Kasich illustrated the ultimate power the Ohio Constitution gives a Governor on a spending bill. Kasich used his line-item veto power over 40 times, double the number from the last budget. In particular, Kasich’s line item veto hit the interests of higher education, charter schools and opponents of the Medicaid expansion hard. In a highly unusually move, the Ohio House voted to override 11 of the Governor’s veto—10 were Medicaid related and one was oil and gas. The Ohio Senate will consider on July 12th to override the Governor’s vetoes next. Kasich’s last operating budget was not pretty, left many unhappy with line item vetoes and may create tension with the General Assembly as Kasich winds up his term as Governor.

Ohio’s Education Policy a Hot Topic with Ohio House Bill 49

Ohio’s workforce development initiative focused on a lofty goal- have 65% of its residents with a university or college degree or a certificate. The demands of Ohio employers require this level of skilled worker. The core of any state’s workforce development program centers on the development of workers starting with a quality K-12 education and moving onto a system of higher education that prepares them for the workplace of tomorrow. The state of Ohio provides $10B to K-12 education and it continues to be a hot political topic in the state of Ohio’s operating budget—House Bill 49. A billion dollar revenue gap create substantial pressure on funding for Ohio’s K-12 education and higher education systems. However, traditional and charter public schools both worked aggressively to secure funding in Houses Bill 49. Higher education fought hard for increased funding and flexibility to set their own tuition rates. The results were mixed.

House Bill 49 on the education front will provide a funding increase to 77% of the traditional public school districts and provide a $10 dollar per student and then a $20 per student increase for charter schools. Ohio’s higher education institutions received no funding increase for their prime state operations subsidy and no changes for the tuition flexibility following a number of line item vetoes by Governor Kasich. 100,000 children attend charter schools in Ohio. With the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio’s largest on-line charter school in a massive legal and political battle and a billion dollar revenue gap arising at halftime in the budget process, it is not a surprise that the state of Ohio operating budget left most in the Ohio charter school community less than fulfilled. The slight increase in funding for Ohio’s charter schools does not address the funding disparity between traditional public schools and brick and mortar charter schools that both serve the same urban students in the 39 struggling school districts in which brick and mortar charters are permitted to locate.

Ohio Charter School Funding Compared to
Traditional Urban Public Schools

The Ohio General Assembly missed a chance to take a major step forward in addressing this funding disparity between brick and mortar charter schools and their traditional urban school counterparts when they failed to shift Targeted Assistance funding for charter schools. In HB 49, the School Foundation Formula includes Targeted Assistance funding for students in low property wealth communities to all public school districts including community schools. In HB 49, brick and mortar community schools are limited to 25% of Targeted Assistance funding for eligible students even though they serve the same low property wealth communities while traditional urban public school districts receive 100% of Targeted Assistance funding. However, with a tight budget year, the General Assembly did not amend HB 49 to allocate 100% of the state’s Targeted Assistance funding to brick and mortar charter schools. Charter schools were also disappointed in Governor Kasich’s veto of a number of policy issues in the state operating budget that included a clarification of the sponsor evaluation system, reinstatement of the teacher residency program, and elimination of an amendment that would have permitted schools to use a paper or on-line achievement test.

Education policy is sure to remain on the Statehouse agenda following a challenging state budget debate in which many policy and funding issues were not resolved through the budget process.

Distracted Driving Debate to Continue in Ohio General Assembly

As usually happens, the Ohio General Assembly passed an avalanche of bills on their way out the door for their summer recess that traditionally follows passage of the state operating budget by the July 1 fiscal year deadline. However, the Ohio General Assembly is not done with its work in 2017 and will likely focus on a number of major topics including distracted driving.

Automobile accidents caused by distracted driving is not only a public safety problem but is also an economic development challenge as it impacts lost time at work, insurance rates and a range of other economic issues. Nationally, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, cell phone use in automobiles is regulated in the following fashion:

  • Hand-held Cell Phone Use: 14 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. All are primary enforcement laws—an officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.
  • All Cell Phone Use: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 38 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers.
  • Text Messaging: Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, 47 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 4 have primary enforcement. Of the 4 states without an all driver texting ban:
    • 3 prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
    • 1 restricts school bus drivers from texting.

Ohio is one of the four states in the union in which texting and driving is not a primary offense—the police cannot give you a ticket if your only offense is texting and driving. Instead, Ohio House Bill 95, which passed the House 71-20, attempts to address the texting while driving crisis by:

  • Creating an enhanced penalty, a $100 ticket, that applies to a person who commits a specified vehicular moving violation while “distracted” if the distraction was a contributing factor to the commission of the violation; and
  • Defining “distracted” to include using a handheld electronic communications device except when operating a motor vehicle while wearing an earphone or earplug or conducting any activity while operating a utility service vehicle or a vehicle for or on behalf of a utility, provided that the driver of the vehicle is acting in response to an emergency, power outage, or a circumstance affecting the health or safety of individuals, that is not necessary to the operation of a vehicle and that impairs or reasonably would be expected to impair the ability of the operator to drive the vehicle safely.

House Bill 95 has the support of parents who lost children due to distracted driving, the auto and insurance industry as well as public safety organizations. All these organizations testified in support of House Bill 95. However, House Bill 95’s fatal flaw is that it does not make texting while driving a primary offense. Enacting a full fledge distracted driving law that makes it a primary offense in Ohio will be the work of the Ohio Senate when the General Assembly returns in the Fall.