Ohio Senate Republicans move toward budget approval: Capitol Letter

All eyes on the budget: This week, the Senate is expected to pass its version of the state’s two-year operating budget. Statehouse observers are watching the proposed income tax cuts and an overhaul in education funding. But as Laura Hancock reports, there are other noteworthy pieces. The Senate version would require Ohio Medicaid to rebid for new managed care companies, with an emphasis on ones headquartered in the state. Daycare centers that accept children on subsidies wouldn’t have to participate in the child care rating system. And pregnancy resource centers that receive grants to promote childbirth, parenting and alternatives to abortion are to receive $1.5 million less in funding.

Use ‘em or lose ‘em: Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday put out an “urgent” call for Ohioans to use 200,000 Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines before they expire on June 23. As Jeremy Pelzer reports, a DeWine spokesman said federal rules prohibit the state from sending the vaccines to another state or country.

Healthy development: Coronavirus hospitalizations continue to rapidly decrease, falling to their lowest levels since last June, Julie Washington reports. Hospitalizations are down to fewer than 600 per day, including 539 for Sunday. That’s roughly 10% of the peak in December, when the state logged a record 5,308 COVID-19 patients in a day.

Tough talk: U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, back from an overseas trip, is urging President Joe Biden to speak “strongly and forcefully” against Russian aggression when he meets next week with Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Sabrina Eaton reports. Ohio’s Republican senator joined with two Democratic colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to visit Ukraine, Lithuania and Georgia last week, and also met with opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya to discuss human rights abuses by the regime of Belarus’ Alexander Lukashenko.

Payday: The campaign for former state Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat running in Ohio’s 11th Congressional District special election, said it had surpassed the $3 million mark in fundraising leading up to the FEC’s end-of-June reporting deadline. Turner has far outpaced her opponents in the race to this point, reporting $2.2 million at the end of the March reporting period.

After this commercial break: Meanwhile, Turner’s main challengers, Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, is buying $200,000 worth of airtime in Cleveland for a new spot called “Mom.” The 30-second ad features Brown’s mother in a much more positive video compared to her previous foray into television: an attack ad against Turner.

A bite of normal: Restaurants and bars throughout Greater Cleveland got to experience some semblance of normal over the weekend, Marc Bona and Annie Nickoloff report. That marked the first time in more than a year the state hasn’t been under health orders that came with strict gathering limitations. The restaurateurs described it as a welcome development for the struggling industry.

Monday math: The number of new coronavirus cases on Monday – 255 – came in at less than half of the 21-day rolling average of 632, Hancock reports.

The glass feeling: Despite near universal control over politics in Ohio, Republicans are behind their counterparts in other states when it comes to electing women. As the Columbus Dispatch’s Haley BeMiller writes, the GOP hasn’t elected a woman to Congress in the state since 2010, though could change that with women like former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken running for Senate.

You be the judge: Ohio Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Brunner is holding a news conference today “to make an announcement about her future plans in public service,” according to an advisory. Brunner, a Democrat who was elected to the bench in 2020 and doesn’t face re-election until 2026, did not provide any details on what the update might be. The chief justice spot is up in next year’s election, with Republican Justices Sharon Kennedy and Pat DeWine already testing the waters.

The Constant Gardner: A Cuyahoga County judge selected community activist Marion Anita Gardner to fill indicted Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson’s seat, Robert Higgs reports. Johnson was arrested on federal corruption charges in April and was suspended from his position shortly thereafter.

Suspended: The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction suspended four more employees a day after the Columbus Dispatch’s Laura Bischoff reported on the autopsy of 55-year-old Michael McDaniel, an inmate at the Corrections Reception Center in Pickaway County, which officials said showed his death was a homicide. The autopsy showed bruises and cuts all over McDaniel’s body. Two staffers were already on paid suspension.

Scandal-ridden: Ohio has certainly made a name for itself in recent years based solely on the sheer number of political scandals that have emerged. But scandals in Ohio politics aren’t anything new. As proof, WVXU’s Howard Wilkinson put together 9 of the worst to engulf the state, ranging from Republican former House Speaker Larry Householder’s federal racketeering case to Democratic former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora’s long, illustrious years of being on the take to some more historical fare such as the downfall of Democratic former Rep. Wayne Hays and Republican former Rep. Donald “Buz” Lukens.

Flooding history: A Cincinnati church is suing Fifth Third Bank saying the bank’s Madisonville building is causing flooding to Ohio’s oldest Black cemetery, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Cameron Knight reports. Fifth Third said it had already started plans to prevent the flooding, but added that church leaders had ignored multiple proposals and lines of inquiry.

Five things we learned from the May 8 financial disclosure form of state Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur, an Ashtabula Republican.

1. Arthur reported earning up to $999 in interest on several accounts, as a private piano instructor, as the owner/operator of Badger Run Berries and as a poll worker for Ashtabula County, and $1,000 to $9,999 as a state board of education member, the director of marketing for Fowler Enterprises, Inc. and in rental income.

2. Fowler reported investments of a mutual fund through Charles Schwab, livestock with Fowler Enterprises, operating capital with Bader Run Berries and Fowler’s Forage and Farms, and inventory with Lilla Rose and Norwest. She amended her report to include a retirement fund through the Ohio Public Employees Retirement Fund.

3. At some point in 2020, Arthur owed more than $1,000 to Heartland Bank and Home Depot.

4. The Ohio Department of Education paid Arthur $1,310.40 in mileage and $1,043 in lodging.

5. Arthur received gifts worth more than $75 from Gretchen Reed, Erin Arthur, Nancy Milanich, Cindy Spink, Dennis Moore, Michele Schroeder, Debbie Friedstrom, Bob Fowler and Tomoaki Sato.

Dani Carlson is now the Ohio press secretary for U.S. Sen. Sherod Brown. She previously was the Center for Community Solutions’ director of communications and digital strategy and a Cleveland television reporter.

Travis Butchello, Ohio House Republicans’ deputy policy director

Amanda Wurst, vice president of communications, Remington Road Group

“Jon Rahm is the antithesis of a Vax-a-Million winner. His decision to remain unvaccinated likely cost him more than $1 million.”

-Hannah News reporter Danny Eldredge in a tweet about pro golfer Jon Rahm, who missed out on winning the Memorial Tournament in Columbus. Rahm led the field by six shots heading into the final day of play Sunday, but tested positive for the coronavirus and was disqualified. The golfer lost out on both the trophy and a $1.675 million payout.

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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