Drug war: Walgreens will not sell or mail to Ohio the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone, retreating in response to a letter from Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Republican attorneys general in about 20 states. Mifepristone used to be available only in abortion clinics. But after Roe v. Wade was overturned last June, President Joe Biden’s administration created a program for retail pharmacies to dispense it to expand abortion access. Yost and the other Republicans warned Walgreens that this would violate state and federal laws, although the federal government argues its program is legal, Laura Hancock reports.
Waiting game: The jury failed to reach a verdict on Wednesday in the corruption trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and ex-Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges. Jake Zuckerman reports that after about five hours of deliberation, the jury was sent home for the evening and will reconvene again on Thursday. Householder and Borges have pleaded not guilty to one count each of racketeering in a case prosecutors have described as an elaborate bribery scheme designed to cement Householder’s hold on power and deliver a $1.3 billion bailout to Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.
Reading, writing, supply and demand: The Ohio Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would require students to learn 10 concepts of free market capitalism in a new course they’re required to take about financial literacy. Hancock reports that only one senator opposed the bill, which now heads to the House.
All in a day’s work: The Ohio Senate on Wednesday also advanced a bill that would allow 14- and 15-year-olds to work later during the school year if their parents or guardians give permission. Republicans behind the bill said it will help the workforce shortage. Democrats voted against it, saying it won’t solve the shortage and that improving access to childcare would be more effective because it would spur more women into the workforce, Hancock reports.
Show me the money: Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman said that he doesn’t think home schooling families have high enough expenses to justify obtaining education vouchers, as some Ohio House members are proposing in House Bill 11. The bill would offer the same $5,500 for students in K-8 and $7,500 in grades 9-12 to homeschoolers as families with private school students. “The concept of cost in education is based obviously on cost. I think we try to reach for as much of parity as possible,” he said.
The repeal question: Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman said he doesn’t want to fully repeal House Bill 6, the scandal-ridden legislation that was the center of the recent federal racketeering trial, because he doesn’t want the state to return to the renewable energy standards that existed before. He actually supported the clean energy standards when they passed in 2008 but has regretted the vote, he said. Huffman said he’d like to look at the two coal plants that HB 6 helps subsidize to see whether they’re still operating at a loss. If they are not, he thinks the state should quit sending money, he said.
Training day: The railroad responsible for a train derailment that spewed hazardous chemicals in East Palestine last month plans to create a regional training center for first responders in Ohio. Peter Krouse reports that Norfolk Southern will use a to-be-determined site in Ohio for the center, which will train first responders from Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, after being urged to do so by Gov. Mike DeWine.
Going rate: A northeast Ohio energy aggregator can continue operating in the state after a state regulatory investigation in response to complaints that the nonprofit suddenly dropped customers to save them money. Adam Ferrise reports that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio sided with the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council in a dispute over the electric aggregator’s decision to drop some 550,000 customers last year.
Viral load: Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield on Wednesday told a U.S. House of Representatives investigative subcommittee chaired by Ohio’s Brad Wenstrup that the COVID-19 global pandemic most likely resulted from an accidental lab leak in Wuhan, China, and didn’t spread to humans from animals, writes Sabrina Eaton. Redfield said the Wuhan lab was studying the exact viral features that made COVID spread rapidly among humans as a way to develop vaccines to get ahead of viruses, and called for a moratorium on such “gain of function” research since it unleashed “a new virus on the world without any means of stopping it,” causing millions of deaths.
Social Security blanket: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, wants to repeal a pair of laws that reduce Social Security benefits for public servants, including teachers and police officers, because of the retirement benefits they get from state and local governments, such as pensions. Brown says the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset he’d like to repeal cut benefits for nearly 3 million Americans, including 241,755 Ohioans. He and Maine Republican Susan Collins have reintroduced repeal legislation they forwarded in 2021.
Farming derailed: Brown sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack on Wednesday with both of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators that asks his department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to address farmers’ contamination concerns from the Norfolk Southern derailment site in East Palestine. Their letter seeks federal resources to help farmers test their soil, plants and livestock and for help determining how results of those tests would affect the safety and marketability of their produce. “Regardless of the results of any testing and guidance on the safety of crops and products there are those consumers that will still be apprehensive or refuse to purchase agricultural products from the region due to fear of contamination from the incident,” the trio write, asking Vilsack to consider disaster assistance.
Marine jobs: Rocky River GOP Rep. Max Miller on Wednesday wrote a letter with a group of colleagues that asks U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger to rehire troops who were discharged for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Miller, who served six years in the Marine Corps Reserves, said that decision was “wrong” and the discharged troops could be used to “fill critical jobs today.”
Third time not the charm: Attorney General Dave Yost has again rejected proposed ballot summary language for a would-be constitutional amendment to end qualified immunity for government and law-enforcement officials. In a letter to the proposal’s backers, which include activists against police brutality, Yost pointed to several “omissions and misstatements” with the submitted summary language for the “Protecting Ohioans’ Constitutional Rights” amendment. The AG previously rejected two other ballot summary language submissions in 2021.
See you in September: Even as the Householder jury deliberated on Wednesday, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio announced it will pause its four investigations into various parts of the House Bill 6 scandal for another six months, at least. The probes were all put on hold last August at the request of federal prosecutors, saying they could interfere with the federal HB6 criminal investigation. The commission, in its extension order, stated that such interference concerns “remain largely at issue.”
Another self-defense ruling: The Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the murder conviction of Malcolm Walker, in a case that centered around a 2019 state law shifting the burden of proof to prosecutors in self-defense cases, according to the Toledo Blade. Walker, a Toledo resident serving a sentence of 21 years to life, argued that the trial and appeals courts should have weighed separately whether his claim that he acted in self-defense has been refuted beyond a reasonable doubt before the case went to the jury. The Supreme Court, though, cited its ruling in a similar case late last year that defendants still must show sufficient evidence that they acted in self-defense.
Five things we learned from the March 31, 2022, financial disclosure form filed by state Rep. Darrell Kick, a Loudonville Republican:
1. Aside from his legislative salary of $75,815.74 in 2021, Kick reported earning more than $100,000 as manager of Kicks’ Dairy Farm, as well as more than $100,000 in real estate income from Mohican Rentals, LLC. He also received somewhere between $1,000 to $9,999 each in dividends from Loudonville Farmer’s Equity, from Columbia Gas Transmission for gas storage leases and payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
2. Kick’s investments included stock in Deere & Co., Exxon Mobile, Key Corp., Dover Corp., Aflac, CIFC and Champion X Corp.; a patronage account and common stock in Loudonville Farmer’s Equity; an index fund with Powershares QQQ; a brokerage and equity account through Vanguard; retirement accounts through the Federal Employee Retirement System and Thrift Savings Plan; a Roth IRA and money market fund with Ameritrade; and an Ohio Public Employees Retirement System retirement account.
3. Kick listed seven real estate properties he had a beneficial interest in — six in Loudonville in Holmes County, and one in Butler in Richland County.
4. At some point in 2020, Kick owed more than $1,000 to Park National Bank, Apple Creek Bank, Wayne Savings Community Bank, Capital One Auto Finance and Veridian Credit Union.
5. Kick’s travel reimbursements in 2021 included $2,097.52 from the Ohio House of Representatives for mileage and travel expenses worth $286.20 from the Ohio Chamber of Commerce for lodging during its annual conference at Salt ForkState Park.
On the Move
Sophia Fifner has been named the next president and CEO of the Columbus Metropolitan Club, effective May 1. Fifner will succeed Jane Scott, who retires on May 31 after 20 years leading the CMC. Fifner previously worked as director of corporate social responsibility and executive director of the NiSource Charitable Foundation and, before that, as a community relations chief for the City of Columbus.
State Rep. Jim Hoops
Straight From The Source
“I don’t really care. I’m not hearing people say their first most important thing is to get Joe Biden in … I know the popular question is, ‘Should the President come in?’ I don’t hear people saying it much. It’s a popular question among the media.”
– U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, discussing with reporters Wednesday whether President Joe Biden should visit the site of the East Palestine train derailment.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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