Week in Review - 04/10/2020

Week in Review - 04/10/2020

ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Ohio Attorney General's Office has published a frequently-asked-questions document for government bodies navigating the logistics of open meetings during the public health emergency sparked by the COVID-19 outbreak. The office said it's fielded "many questions" since passage of HB197 (Powell-Merrin), emergency coronavirus legislation that included temporary changes to the open meeting law that are in effect until the end of the public health emergency declaration or until Tuesday, Dec. 1, including greater flexibility for meeting via teleconference or videoconference.


CORONAVIRUS

Ohioans will start to hear more details of the plan to emerge from coronavirus-induced isolation next week, both Gov. DeWine and ODH Director Acton said Thursday. The administration delivered that message with discontent on its doorstep as dozens of protestors circled the Statehouse and then converged on the building's north side during the daily briefing, holding signs urging that life be re-opened and that the governor be removed, among other messages. The administration is working on "a fairly sophisticated plan" for easing the orders that have shuttered businesses, restaurants and schools and ended large gatherings, the governor said with Acton explaining that trends on virus cases, deaths, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions will help to drive the timing of starting to lift restrictions -- a process administration officials have repeatedly said will be gradual.


EDUCATION

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has been updating its list of guidance for schools and educators as they continue to navigate the closing of school buildings, the sudden shift to distance learning and the flexibility granted by state and federal governments in response to the pandemic. At http://education.ohio.gov/coronavirus , the department now provides resources on the following topics such as school building shutdowns; child nutrition; serving students with disabilities; and graduation, among others.


ELECTIONS 2020

For the first time in state history, Ohioans will only be able to vote in a primary election through the mail. In an interview with Hannah News, Ohio elections officials said they worry whether voters will have enough time to get their absentee ballot requests filled out, send them back, receive their ballot and get those sent back in time for the April 28 deadline set by the Ohio Legislature as a part of HB197 (Powell-Merrin). Officials said they have been receiving numerous inquiries from voters since the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) closed polling locations for the March 17 primary due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and said there has been some confusion on how to get an absentee request and get it returned.


U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson Friday refused to make changes to Ohio's primary election in response to a lawsuit challenging HB197's (Powell-Merrin) provisions extending absentee voting until April 28. The judge ruled the plaintiffs in the case, including the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, were not likely to succeed on the merits of their lawsuit and that the public interest in the changes of HB197 outweigh the plaintiffs' requested relief. The Legislature passed HB197 to address issues surrounding the closing of polling locations on the presidential primary date of March 17 due to concerns over the coronavirus. The bill did not set a new in-person voting date.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Calling it a "perfect storm" of circumstance that is increasing costs for the state at the same time as state revenue is plummeting, House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said the state budget could be as much as $2 billion short of projections by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Householder made the comments on Tuesday during a 50-minute interview with WOSU's Ann Fisher on her radio show "All Sides."