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10 things that happened this week at Ohio Statehouse

By MARC KOVAC Capital Bureau Published: June 9, 2017 9:58 AM

COLUMBUS -- One lawmaker proposed changing the name of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation. The latest revenue results continued to lag earlier projections. And the Ohio House moved a few bills.

Here are 10 things that happened around the Statehouse this week:

1. The Shortfall: The Office of Budget and Management released financial results for the year to date, with tax collections continuing to fall below earlier projections.

We'll get a better picture of what that actually means for the coming biennial budget later this month, when budget Director Tim Keen provides updated totals for lawmakers' consideration.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said more adjustments are in order, as has been expected for weeks.

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"Let me also impress that this is no different than any other budget," he told reporters. "Revenue projections change. They sometimes get better, sometimes they get worse. This is the same that we deal with in every budget."

2. The Flip Side: House Democrats were a little more pointed in their reaction to the latest budget figures.

Minotiry Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) and Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) offered in a released statement, "The TV weatherman is right more than Ohio Republicans have been about Ohio's financial future. Meanwhile, with every month that passes, taxpayers have a front row seat to see how years of deep cuts to schools and communities, tax shifting and tax giveaways for millionaires and billionaires are pushing our economy further out of balance and charting a collision course of uncertainty and failure."

3. Passed: The Ohio Senate did not have a voting session this week, but the Ohio House did, moving three bills in the process.

HB 68, which passed on a unanimous vote, would increase penalties for those who abuse or victimize elderly or mentally disabled residents. It was offered in response to a case in the Cleveland area, where an offender was caught taking photos of disabled residents in a health care facility.

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4. Other Bills: The House also OK'd SB 25, which focuses on the court setup in Perry County, and HB 46, which "eases restrictions placed on county governments in relation to investments made in corporate bonds and depository institution bonds," according to the Legislative Service Commission.

The latter legislation was sponsored by Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay), who is in the running for state treasurer.

Republican Franklin County Auditor Clarence Mingo also has launched a campaign in that statewide race.

5. Leadership Move: The Ohio House named Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) as Majority Floor Leader, while Rep. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) was named Caucus Policy Chair, the latter post formerly held by Seitz.

Seitz replaces Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) in leadership. Pelanda is running for secretary of state next year and opted to step down as floor leader. Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) and Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) also have launched campaigns to become the state's chief elections official.

6. Workers' Compensation: State Rep. Mike Henne (R-Clayton) announced a new Bureau of Workers' Compensation reform bill that would include a renaming of the agency to the Ohio Office of Employee Safety and Rehabilitation.

"It's pretty much a worst-case scenario if you think about what the name says -- you're going to have to go through a bureaucracy, and we're going to give injured workers money," Henne said. "There are only two 'bureaus' in the state of Ohio, the Bureau of Workers' Compensation and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Neither of them give you a warm, fuzzy feeling."

He added, "We want a name that more reflects the mission of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation We want to concentrate on the good things they do."

7. BWC Postscript: Henne's bill also calls for the implementation of standards for employee safety programs, with incentives for employers that participate; return-to-work plans for workers injured on the job; changes in extended benefits for injured workers nearing retirement age; and a revamped approach to death benefits, including a $35,000 lump sum payment for eligible families, plus an additional $5,000 scholarship per year for four years to eligible dependents.

Asked whether the bill would end up cutting workers' benefits, Henne responded, "I believe the bill is neutral I don't think you can say we're cutting benefits, we're more appropriately applying them. In some cases, they will get less benefits, but with the cost-of-living adjustment and the death benefits and all, we're giving that money right back in a more appropriate and beneficial way to the worker."

8. Familiar Name: Gov. John Kasich named Todd McKenney, a magistrate in Summit County Common Pleas Court, to the bench in Barberton Municipal Court, effective this month. He'll have to run on the November ballot to retain the seat.

You may recall that McKenney served for a short time in the Ohio House before being appointed to the bench by the governor in 2011.

Trivia: McKenney was primary sponsor of the bill that renamed the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy, or NEOUCOM, in Rootstown to the Northeast Ohio Medical University, or NEOMED.

9. Another Familiar Name: Geauga County Common Pleas Judge Timothy Grendell was back at the Statehouse, providing testimony on a bill related to probate courts and park districts. He served in the Ohio House and Senate from 2000 through 2011.

10. In Memory: The Ohio House memorialized the late Irene Balogh Smart, an attorney, former Canton City Councilwoman, state representative and Stark County and appeals court judge.

A resolution noted that, "Irene Smart left an indelible impression on the people whose lives she touched, and she will be remembered as a spirited individual who contributed immeasurably to the world around her."

Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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