2 accused in House Bill 6 corruption case enter plea deals with feds: Capitol Letter

Art of the deal: Ohio Capitol Square was buzzing Thursday on news that Jeff Longstreth and Juan Cespedes, two figures in the federal government’s investigation into the $60 million corruption probe tied to House Bill 6, which bailed out two nuclear plants owned by a former FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary, had agreed to plead guilty in a deal with federal prosecutors. It remains to be seen whether they’ll cooperate with the feds, John Caniglia reports, since the plea deals don’t indicate whether they will.

More big news: Later on the same day of the guilty pleas, FirstEnergy announced it had fired three company executives, including CEO Chuck Jones, for unspecified violations of “certain FirstEnergy policies and its code of conduct,” Andrew Tobias reports. The Akron-based company declined to elaborate, but the move comes amid numerous lawsuits and government investigations spawned by the federal corruption probe. FirstEnergy President Steven Strah was named acting CEO. The company will hold its quarterly earnings conference call on Monday morning.

Big surge: On Thursday, new cases hit an all-time high of 3,590, a new record. Before Thursday, Ohio hadn’t yet hit 3,000 cases in a day, much less 3,500, Laura Hancock reports.

No purple; a lot of red: 78% of Ohioans live in the 43 counties now designated as being under red alert for coronavirus concerns. But despite a sharp increase in cases, no counties were upgraded to the worst level of purple this week, and there will be no purple counties next week, Rich Exner reports. This is because counties must reach purple-level criteria for two straight weeks to get that designation, starting with a “watch” week. No counties are any longer on watch.

Nursing home cases up: There has been a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities. As the death total grew to 3,270 with this week’s report, the state also said 1,585 current patients are infected, up from 1,087 seven days earlier, Exner reports.

School numbers: As would be expected during an overall spike in Ohio, more K-12 students and staff are being reported with the virus across the state, though this doesn’t mean they were infected at school. This week’s report from the state added 766 student and 515 staff cases, up from 613 new student cases and 407 for staff a week earlier, Exner reports.

For your defense: Gov. Mike DeWine is calling on counties and communities to create defense teams made up of elected, hospital, business and religious leaders. They’re to assess the current outbreak, determine if they need more resources and create a tangible goal to reduce spread, Hancock reports.

California drivers save, Ohio’s not so much: Traffic accidents remain low during the pandemic. The roads aren’t as crowded. And many people are still working at home. But auto insurance rates largely have not been reduced to account for the changes, with the exception of in California, Exner reports. He offers tips to save in his personal finance column this week.

Biden up in Ohio: A poll released less than a week before Election Day shows former Vice President Joe Biden with a 5 percentage point edge over President Donald Trump in Ohio, Sabrina Eaton writes. Forty-eight percent of the 1,186 likely voters in Ohio that Quinnipiac University surveyed between Oct. 23 and Oct. 27 said they back Biden, and 43% said they support Trump.

Poll positions: Ohio boards of election have recruited 53,981 poll workers for the Nov. 3 election, including 23,140 Democrats and 20,206 Republicans, Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Thursday. The state is still 6,037 poll workers short of its goal, although officials in LaRose’s office have said they’re overshooting their targets in case there are last-minute cancellations. For more information about being a poll worker in Ohio, click here.

Ohio’s late-count history: Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Kerry all did thousands of votes better than their Republican counterparts in Ohio with ballots added to the count between the unofficial results near Election Day and the official tally weeks later. Exner did the research and found the margins improved by 8,142 for Clinton in 2016, 59,029 for Obama in 2012, 56,912 for Obama in 2008 and 17,620 for Kerry in 2004.

If you’re standing by the mailbox… Courtney Astolfi has written a straight-forward Q&A for what Ohio voters should do if they’ve requested an absentee ballot and it hasn’t arrived. It’s part of a series by and The Plain Dealer called Election Truth that offers some voting clarity amid the confusion and contradictions this election season.

Jobless claims dip: Both initial and continued claims for unemployment benefits in Ohio fell during each of the last two weeks, Jeremy Pelzer reports. The drops, which come amid record numbers of new coronavirus cases, mark an end to a four-week-long rise in new jobless benefit claims in the Buckeye State, though they also continue a weeks-long decline in the number of ongoing claims.

DeWine’s on board: DeWine on Thursday signed into law House Bill 211, which allows property owners who find abandoned watercraft and outboard motors on their land to obtain title to such vessels if 1) the vessel has been abandoned for 20 days, 2) proper notice has been sent to the vessel’s owners, yet the vessel remains unclaimed for another 10 days, and 3) the property owner files an affidavit with the local clerk of courts. The new law also allows property owners to go to court to recover the costs of storing or removing abandoned vessels.

Challengers vs. Jim Jordan: The candidates running against Champaign County Republican Rep. Jordan hope the incumbent’s attack dog performances in support of President Donald Trump will bite him at the ballot box, Eaton reports. While Jordan believes constituents like his tactics, Democrat Shannon Freshour and Libertarian Steve Perkins say they want change.

Dismay with Trump: A former Cuyahoga County Republican party activist who ran for Congress against Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur in 2014 says he’s changed his political party affiliation to Democrat out of frustration with Trump and will vote for both Kaptur and Biden in November, Eaton writes. The Ohio Republican Party said it didn’t care about the departure of Cleveland’s Richard May, and another former GOP opponent of Kaptur, Steve Kraus of Sandusky, said he was “very disappointed” in May.

As Ohio goes… Joey Morona writes about two news programs that will have segments from Ohio before Tuesday. “60 Minutes” reporter Scott Pelley talks with Ohio voters about their presidential picks. “NBC Nightly News” will broadcast live from Cleveland on Saturday.

Question: How many dump trucks does the Ohio Department of Transportation use for plowing snow? The person who gets the answer first or comes closest to the answer wins.

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

Thanks for responding to last week’s trivia question: What Ohio town hosts an annual parade for an Ohioan described as “One of America’s most obscure presidents”?

Answer: North Bend, population 857 as of the 2010 U.S. census, hosts an annual parade in honor of William Henry Harrison, who lived there when he was elected president in 1840. Harrison, an aging war hero, was 68 when he was elected and died 31 days into his term after falling ill. The Cincinnati Enquirer wrote of the parade in February 2020: “You might consider the parade here earlier this month the equivalent of a participation trophy.”

Capitol Letter reader Pam Manges of Wooster, the ACS Cancer Action Network’s Ohio Vice State lead ambassador, was the first to send in the correct answer.

Friday: Kimberly McConville, executive director of the Ohio Beverage Association; Cailyn Pittman, legislative aide to state Rep. Stephanie Howse

Saturday: Jill Del Greco Donahue, communications adviser, Gov. Mike DeWine’s office; Ron Puff, legislative aide to state Rep. Kris Jordan; Courtlen Vizzuso, legislative aide to state Rep. Fred Strahorn

“The pathway to the Moon and beyond has been, and will continue to be, through Ohio.”

-Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday during the virtual Ohio Space Forum, when he renewed his call for the Space Command headquarters to be in the state, according to reporting by Hannah News Service’s Spenser Hickey.

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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