Gov. Mike DeWine names new leadership at the Ohio Department of Youth Services: Capitol Letter – cleveland.com

A guard keeps watch as inmates go to class at Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in Highland Hills in this 2006 photo. On Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine appointed a new director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services. (Dale Omori, The Plain Dealer)
Rotunda Rumblings
Lockup shakeup: Gov. Mike DeWine, who is seeking re-election next year, announced the director is out at the Ohio Department of Youth Services, the youth prison system previously accused of having a high rate of sexual assault among children in its custody. Ryan Gies will take a non-executive management role at the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Amy L. Ast will become the Department of Youth Services director later this month, Laura Hancock reports.
Take two: Ohio has been sued a second time over its new congressional map, with the latest lawsuit coming from a coalition of voter-rights groups. As Andrew Tobias writes, the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Philip Randolph Institute say Ohio Republicans violated the state constitution by drawing a map that “unduly” benefits the GOP by favoring them to win 12 of Ohio’s 15 congressional seats. The groups, represented by the ACLU of Ohio, previously sued over the new state legislative maps. The Ohio Supreme Court quickly issued a schedule for written arguments in the case, with briefs due on Dec. 13, Dec. 17 and Dec. 20.
Reverse charge: A settlement agreement to provide $306 million in FirstEnergy Corp. customer refunds was formally approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on Wednesday, as expected. The agreement resolves claims that when the Akron-based utility calculated whether its subsidiaries violated state-imposed profit limits, it improperly excluded $458 million in customer charges that the Ohio Supreme Court struck down in 2019. The deal also resolves disputes over a state review of FirstEnergy’s power pricing plan and audits of the company’s energy-efficiency customer charge between 2014 and 2018. The average FirstEnergy residential customer will receive a refund totaling $85.71 over the next five years.
Acton in Action: A familiar name in state government made an appearance on a list of 75 people tapped for incoming Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s transition team. Courtney Astolfi writes that former Ohio Health Department director Dr. Amy Acton will join seven other members of a transition committee tasked with helping to identify Bibb’s health-related priorities for his first 100 days in office. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s state director John Ryan is also one of six co-chairs for the transition team.
Roe on the Brink: The conservative wing of the U.S. Supreme Court appears, at minimum, to uphold Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but also may overturn the nationwide right that to abortions that has existed in this country for half a century. The Associated Press reportsthat the outcome likely won’t be known until June. But after nearly two hours of arguments, all six conservative justices, including three appointed by former President Donald Trump, indicated they would uphold a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Closer to home, an Ohio House committee is going to consider Senate Bill 157 today which would require physicians to provide life-saving care to fetuses that survive abortions.
It’s a sign: DeWine signed a bill on Wednesday that he’d once vowed to veto. Per Tobias, House Bill 215, dubbed the “Business Fairness Act,” allows any “non-essential” business closed due to a health order to remain open as long as it meets the same safety standards as an “essential” one. The bill is a response to business closures DeWine ordered last year early on in the coronavirus pandemic.
Bills, bills, bills: DeWine also signed House Bill 177, which allows the government to use distributed ledger and blockchain technology. Senate Bill 36, which revises reparations eligibility for crime victims, SB54, which toughens laws on telecommunications fraud and SB115, which revises the Ohio pooled collateral program.
Class cash: Another 30 young Ohioans won $10,000 Vax-2-School scholarships, the state’s latest incentive program to promote the shots. Meantime, Hancock reports that new coronavirus cases in Ohio are reaching the peak seen during the delta wave.
Dark money: A dark-money group funded by American Electric Power confirmed in a recent tax filing that it gave $500,000 to a term limits proposal backed by former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder that would have allowed him to stay in office for another 12 years. As Tobias writes, Empowering Ohio’s Economy also reported giving $1 million to a different dark-money group with similar board members called Open Road Path and $50,000 to a group that ran attack ads last year against former state Rep. Candice Keller.
Viral news: Trump tested positive for coronavirus three days before his first debate against President Joe Biden in Cleveland, according to a new book by former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that The Guardian obtained in advanceSabrina Eaton writes that a subsequent negative test led Trump’s camp to believe the initial test was a false positive. Shortly after the debate, where Trump and his entourage refused to wear masks, Trump announced his coronavirus diagnosis. Within days, officials traced 11 coronavirus cases to the debate.
Returning the missionaries: The Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs told U.S. Sen. Rob Portman earlier this week that he’s been personally involved in trying to recover 15 Christian missionaries from an Ohio organization kidnapped in Haiti six weeks ago, Eaton reports. “We saw the release of two U.S. citizens who had been kidnapped in connection with that case, and we hope that there will be a rapid resolution and favorable resolution for the remainder of those who have been kidnapped,” the State Department’s Brian Nichols told Portman during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
Ad wars: Cleveland luxury car dealer Bernie Moreno has reserved his first ads of his U.S. Senate campaign, scheduling $4 million worth to run for the next month in TV stations across the state, according to his campaign. His first ad features Moreno at a gas station, bemoaning recent inflation under President Joe Biden. Meanwhile, Cleveland investment banker Mike Gibbons released the first attack ad from a Senate candidate that targets another candidate. The ad calls memoirist/investor JD Vance a “RINO,” for his past opposition to Trump.
Dirty business: An investigative article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Michael Sallah and Emma Loop details how Ohio elected officials, including then-Attorney General DeWine, as well as Portman and Brown, in 2017 pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to ease planned environmental restrictions on two steel plants, including one in West Virginia owned by a Ukrainian oligarch later accused of using the business for money laundering. “There’s no indication the elected officials knew at the time the companies were steeped in an alleged laundering conspiracy,” the story reads. “…But the help that key lawmakers lent to Mr. Kolomoisky’s companies underscores the lack of scrutiny by elected leaders.”
Unproven: Two trustees of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio have proposed putting nearly two-thirds of the pension fund’s portfolio — $65 billion — into a partnership with a company called QED Management LLC, which has “no staff, no clients, no money under management,” according to Robert McFee, the chair of the pension’s board. As Laura Bischoff of the Columbus Dispatch reports, STRS staff sharply pushed back on the idea, McFee said the proposal could pop up again for more debate.
Ohio Stateho-ho-house: The Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting, held remotely last year due to the pandemic, is slated to be held in person again this year on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The free event, open to the public, will feature Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine lighting the Ohio Statehouse holiday tree and welcoming Santa and Mrs. Claus. There will also be complimentary cookies, arts and crafts activities, games, a free photo station with Santa, and performances by local choirs and dancers.
Five things we learned from the May 14, 2021 financial disclosure form filed by state Sen. Robert McColley, a Napoleon Republican:
1. Besides McColley’s legislative salary of $74,527 in 2020, last year he received somewhere between $50,000 and $99,999 from the sale of real estate through his company, Screaming Eagle Investments, LLC. He also was paid somewhere between $1,000 and $9,999 for his work as a lawyer and received rental income somewhere in the same range.
2. McColley owns stock in a wide number of companies, including Dave & Busters, Delta Airlines, Red Robin, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, PayPal, the Walt Disney Company, Wendy’s, Zoom and Zynga (a mobile-game developer). He also holds real-estate investments and a money market account.
3. At some point in 2020, McColley owed at least $1,000 to Chase Bank, Michael and Denise McColley, Premier Bank, Hamler State Bank, Huntington Bank, and Home Depot.
4. The Ohio Senate reimbursed him $4,247 in mileage last year.
5. The Toledo Chamber of Commerce footed the bill for his $13.95 meal at a legislative breakfast on Valentine’s Day of 2020; the Ohio Cable Telecommunications Association bought him a lunch worth $8.16 six days later.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s campaign on Wednesday rolled out a long list of more than 300 endorsements from Republicans in all 88 Ohio counties, including U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, nine GOP congressmen, 19 state senators, 40 state representatives, and 44 Ohio Republican Party state central committee members.
Newly elected congressman Mike Carey, a Columbus Republican, will serve on the House Budget Committee and the House Science Space and Technology Committee, his office said.
Carolyn Mangas has been hired as deputy director of strategy and legislative affairs for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. Mangas worked for the past 15 years as government affairs manager for the Ohio Insurance Agents Association.
David Frash, Ohio House Republicans’ senior policy adviser
Ex-state Rep. Al Landis
Ex-President Warren Harding (1865-1923)
“We demanded these essential workers go to work. And they did. And they died. It’s like, ‘OK. Sorry. We’re moving on.’ And meanwhile all of the families are drowning.”
-Julie Wallace of Elyria, the widow of Lewis Dunlap, who ran a semi-truck repair shop and who died last year with COVID-19. A PBS NewsHour story about the lack of resources for children whose parents have died of COVID-19 featured the family.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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