Three decades worth of public service and lobbying in the state of Ohio provides the Montrose Group leadership with deep insight into the policy and lobbying issues facing the state of Ohio in 2024. To summarize those challenges and opportunities, the Montrose Group has created a 2024 Ohio Corporate Government Relations Top 10 Trends analysis which is listed below.
Ohio is a large lobbying market that demands a sophisticated lobbying strategy. Ohio is the seventh largest state in population, Gross Domestic Product, and state expenditures with a large volume of local governments and a sophisticated state government covering a range of issues. A strategic lobbying and campaign finance strategy can support the development of quality public policy and achieve results for clients.
Lobbying will remain a heavily regulated but critically important profession in 2024. Lobbying is protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and it is regulated by local, state, and federal governments. In Ohio, a lobbyist is a person who is compensated to actively advocate the interests of others before Ohio’s legislative and executive branches, or one of the state’s retirement systems. Lobbyists are required to publicly register, comply with expenditure, and gift restrictions with public officials, and file public reports on their activity. Ohio has over 1300 registered lobbyists at the state level.
Ohio will remain a Red state in 2024 as the Presidential, U.S. Senate, and Ohio General Assembly Races Dominate. Ohio has become a Red or Republican state, and the chances are strong for the Republican Presidential candidate will win the Buckeye State, Republican supermajorities will remain in the Ohio Congressional Delegation and among the ninety-nine members of the Ohio House of Representatives and thirty-three members of the Ohio Senate. 2024 will see a U.S. Senate race where Republicans are working to defeat Democrat Sherrod Brown. Social issues and the economy are likely to impact Ohio elections but Governor Mike DeWine, who is not on the ballot and cannot run again due to term limits, remains extremely popular following a landslide re-election in 2022.
The rise of populism will continue to dominate Ohio’s 2024 public policy agenda on the right and left. The transformation of the Republican Party under Donald Trump that increases rural and union household support for Republicans is creating challenges for corporations who now cannot count on Republican majorities to support their public policy agenda and Democrats dealing with liberal advocates pushing a social and foreign agenda unpopular with the suburban voters they need to survive.
Political Engagement will remain critical for the success of lobbying in Ohio. Political contributions are a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. However, local, state, and federal laws regulate campaign contributions by limiting contribution amounts and who can contribute and requiring public disclosure of political contributions. Campaign contributions can be made to candidate campaign committees, Political Action Committees (PACs) formed to support a company, cause, or candidate, launch an independent expenditure committee to influence an election or policy issue or contribute to a political party. Traditional “hard money” PACs and “dark money” Independent Expenditures (IEs) are the prime methods companies and trade associations use to provide campaign financing or political support to candidates for public office. Companies or campaigns may form a PAC and IE to support political campaigns of candidates or issues placed before voters. A PAC can be either organized under state or federal regulations and contribution and expenditure limitations apply to PACs, and IEs are organized under the IRS as a 501 (c) (4) organization to provide political education. PACs and IEs will spend billions of dollars in the 2024 election and Ohio has over 800 PACs registered with the Ohio Secretary of State.
The “gift” of term limits will continue to have a major impact on public policy in 2024 as political battles often between policymakers in the same political dominate policy debates and create another round of interparty fights in the 2024 election. The Ohio General Assembly is deeply divided on political grounds but not how you would think. Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens gained the Speakership with the support of over 30 House Democrats and a minority of his Republican caucus. Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, a former number two member of Ohio House leadership, has been making noises about not only running for the Ohio House of Representatives but seeking the Speakership.
The slowdown in the U.S. economy will continue the push of the local, and state governments in 2024 to provide economic development program support. Driven by an increase in interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S. economy will slow down in 2024 and states like Ohio have responded by priming the pump for economic development with a $3.5 B economic development program to fund Brownfield, building demo, site development, housing and community projects across the state in 2024.
Healthcare, housing, and energy will dominate the policy agenda in the Ohio Statehouse in 2024. Medicaid, as the largest line item in Ohio’s budget through the Medicaid program, will continue to make headlines in 2024 as state policymakers debate a range of hot-button scope of practice and transparency issues. Housing will see a rise as a major policy issue in 2024 as rising interest rates impact the development of housing that has struggled to keep pace with increasing economic investment. Energy will be another hot topic in 2024 as energy-intensive industries such as data centers push the U.S. energy grid to its max at the same time as supply chain challenges impact electric distribution networks and electric generation tries to keep pace with less coal and struggles to site renewable energy projects.
The collapse of the office market in 2024 will be a hot Ohio policy topic in 2024. Rising office vacancy rates driven by the Work from Home movement are driving rents down and will create a crisis throughout the United States including Ohio as local and state governments are faced with the prospect of declining revenue as the real estate market faces declining rents and the potential bankruptcy of major office towers.