Ohio Department of Health recommends K-12 students wear masks when schools start: Capitol Letter

Critical mask: The state is going to release guidance by today for the operations of K-12 schools this fall, to prevent coronavirus spread, including urging that unvaccinated kids and staff wear masks. As Laura Hancock writes, the recommendations are just that – not mandates.

Alternate history: Last week’s deferred prosecution agreement with FirstEnergy includes details on Republican former House Speaker Larry Householder’s plans to squash the attempt to repeal House Bill 6 if the issue made the ballot. As Andrew Tobias writes, the prosecution agreement includes texts between FirstEnergy executives, who describe Householder’s plans to introduce a bill declaring HB6′s nuclear subsidies as a new tax that would be illegal to repeal. Of course, that would have required the bill’s backers to own having voted for a new $1 billion tax. But the repeal effort failed to gather the required signatures, and the bill was never introduced.

Staying power? Part of FirstEnergy’s deal with the feds is a statement on its website saying that the bribery scheme around House Bill 6 wouldn’t have been possible without dark money. State lawmakers in both parties have introduced measures to require that donors’ names be revealed behind the secretive groups that pay for political activity, but no bill has passed thus far, Hancock reports.

Early warning? Weeks before the FBI raided his home, Sam Randazzo, then the chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, told Gov. Mike DeWine’s then-chief of staff, Laurel Dawson, about a $4.3 million payment his company received from FirstEnergy Corp. — a payment the utility would later admit was a bribe. As Jeremy Pelzer reports, a DeWine spokesman said the governor wasn’t told about the payment until after the FBI raid.

Shop around: The five insurance companies that are paid to manage most of Ohio Medicaid members are offering $100 gift cards for recipients through Sept. 15 if they get a first coronavirus vaccine, Hancock reports. The incentive is a way to increase immunizations among the vaccine-hesitant group, and offer some spending money for back-to-school shopping.

Worth the wait: Cities and other local governments that rely on local income taxes are stuck waiting for closure on whether they will be able to keep collecting from commuters who have been working from home for more than a year, Robert Higgs writes. State lawmakers allowed businesses to continue collecting local income taxes, but cases making their way through the courts will determine whether cities face the prospect of diminished funds as more people work remotely.

On track: The U.S. Census Bureau in a court filing on Monday reiterated that the agency is on track to release 2020 Census data to Ohio officials by Aug. 16. As Tobias writes, the agency as part of a legal settlement with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost agreed to file regular updates confirming it’s still on schedule. State officials will use the data as the foundation for drawing new state legislative and congressional lines, with the first deadline for each respective redistricting process falling on Sept. 1 and Sept. 30.

Anti-hazing efforts: Presidents of Ohio’s public universities on Monday pushed for a change in state law so that their schools’ students who are convicted of hazing would be automatically dismissed and banned from attending other state universities. As Pelzer writes, the proposal is one of several anti-hazing principles unveiled by the Inter-University Council of Ohio Council of Presidents.

New sheriff in town: An invitation for a Wednesday fundraiser for state Rep. Phil Plummer explicitly touts the Dayton Republican as a candidate for Ohio House speaker next session. The Dayton Republican, a former Montgomery County sheriff, is one of several House Republicans considering running for the speakership after current Speaker Bob Cupp leaves at the end of next year due to term limits.

Elections complaint: The Center for Media Democracy, a left-leaning group, and Common Cause Ohio, on Monday filed an Ohio elections complaint against the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council and three Republican state legislators. The complaint is tied to ALEC’s granting of free access to a voter targeting app used by the Republican National Committee to all ALEC members, even though ALEC is a 501(c)(3) barred from electioneering. The complaint names state Reps. Bill Seitz and Scott Wiggam and state Sen. Rob McColley, who all hold leadership positions with ALEC. But it acknowledges the groups don’t know if the legislators actually accessed the software, and asks the elections commission to investigate. A House GOP spokesperson didn’t return a message, but Senate GOP spokesman John Fortney blasted the complainants as “far-left groups” and said McColley had never used or even heard of the program.

Jolt of energy: Lordstown Motors Corp., the troubled Mahoning Valley-based electric car startup, said it had reached a deal with investment firm Yorkville Advisors, which will purchase up to $400 million of the company’s shares over three years, the Associated Press reports. The cash influx comes at a time the automaker is facing SEC and Justice Department scrutiny and just weeks after several members of leadership at the company resigned.

Ethically speaking: The U.S. House Ethics Committee decided against launching an investigation into the arrest of Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Columbus Democrat, who was taken into custody earlier this month while protesting in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building, the Washington Post’s John Wagner reports. The committee – which is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans – noted Beatty paid a $50 fine before her release and a statement from the committee said it expected the issue to be “resolved with no further action.”

You kidding me? The Washington Post’s Philip Bump analyzed Republican Senate hopeful J.D. Vance’s latest offhanded proposal – a retort to Democrats wanting to allow 16-year-olds the right to vote – that all children should be allowed to vote, but their parents get to control it. As Bump points out, Vance’s assumption that parents will skew toward the Republican Party isn’t quite what the data says, and, in fact, would probably favor Democrats.

Test run: Observers wondering whether critical race theory will be a potent political issue will have the chance to see a test run in Virginia’s gubernatorial election later this year, the Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Jamerson and Aaron Zitner write. Both reporters noted that three of the Republicans angling for retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s seat have all made the issue central to their campaign.

Five things we learned from the May 5 financial disclosure form of state Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, a Mason Republican.

1. Aside from his legislative salary of $74,527.32, Zeltwanger reported earning up to $999 in interest from American Express Bank and Huntington Bank, $1,000 to $9,999 in interest and dividends from Charles Schwab, $25,000 to $49,999 interest and dividends from Fidelity Investments and $100,000 or more from management of Joshua One LLC.

2. Zeltwanger’s investments included common stock in Cisco, Google, Intel, Markel Group Holdings, Mastercard, Procter & Gamble, Fidelity Cash Reserves, Apple, Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, AT&T, Verizon, Price T Rowe Group, Wells Fargo, Alibaba, JP Morgan Chase, US Bancorp, Visa, Hershey and Amazon; an annuity through New York Life Variable Annuity; Mutual funds through Fidelity, ETF Manager TR Purefunds and ARK ETFs; a retirement account through Ohio Public Employees Retirement System; and multiple investment mechanisms through Ohio Deferred Compensation.

3. At some point in 2020, Zeltwanger owed more than $1,000 to American Express, Sharefax Credit Union, Huntington National Bank and on a Fidelity Investments credit card.

4. Zeltwanger was owed more than $1,000 at some point in 2020 by his campaign committee, Friends of Paul Zeltwanger.

5. The Ohio House of Representatives gave Zeltwanger $1,531.20 in travel reimbursement.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right To Life

“There’s some connotations that go along with a dog. One thing we’re interested in looking at is, if you feature a dog on your social media as a politician, does that make you seem more empathetic, more warm, like maybe more of a people person?”

-Dr. Jennifer Hoewe, a Purdue University professor, quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer on one of the reasons she is studying whether having a dog helps politicians get elected. Researchers from Purdue and Miami University of Ohio are going through 1,500 responses from social media for their study, which they expect will be completed by 2022.

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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