Columbus — Gov. John Kasich offered a mini-preview of his coming biennial budget proposal, Republican legislative leaders named the heads of their respective finance committees and one state agency reminded residents of funding available for residential tornado shelters.
Here are 10 things that happened in and around the Statehouse this week:
1. High Tech: Kasich, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) offered comments before a group of Columbus business leaders, providing something of an overview of the coming budget process.
One revelation from the governor was a proposal to establish a “chief innovation officer” in state government to help spearhead the commercialization of new technologies being developed at Ohio’s universities and elsewhere.
“Do you know how many commercialized items we get out of our universities?” Kasich asked. “Virtually none. We don’t get robust technological development out of our research centers… The research ought to be coordinated to produce something that’s really useful. So our chief innovation officer is going to be able to take all of the research that’s being done and move it in a direction where we can actually bring about commercialization….”
2. More High-tech World: Kasich continues to tout the state’s high-tech possibilities.
Ohio is working to become a leader in the development of self-driving cars and trucks, drones and other innovation, the governor said.
The state, he added, is on the cusp of big things related to predictive analytics. Places like Cleveland Clinic are already using data to improve medical treatment for patients.
Kasich wants the state to use those same techniques to improve government.
“We do some of this already, but we’re really going to dramatically step this up,” he said. “We believe there’s ways in which you can reduce infant mortality. We believe there’s ways in which you can better fight the drug problem. We believe there’s better ways to do transportation. I mean, there’s so many areas here that if you can collect data, aggregate data and take a look at trends, you can get ahead of problems before they occur, you can make government more effective and more efficient while at the same time maintaining the most important thing, which is our individual privacy.”
3. Red Light Cameras: The Ohio Supreme Court had oral arguments on a legal challenge to a new state law restricting the use of automated red light cameras to capture traffic violations.
This case comes out of Dayton, which wants to continue to use its cameras without having a police officer physically on hand or meeting other requirements enacted by state lawmakers.
There’s no timeline for a decision, though the case has big implications for the future use of the cameras in the state.
4. Elections: Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted offered comments during a gathering in Columbus of county elections officials.
Speaking to reporters beforehand, Husted voiced concern about federal homeland security’s plans to designate of election equipment at “critical infrastructure” — a move that could open the door for federal interference in state election administration.
Husted said he’s asked for information in writing about what the designation means, since there isn’t much in the way of solid information about the potential implications.
“I’m not sure if this is just a symbolic act on their part of if there’s something that it actually gives the federal government power to do that they’re not telling us,” Husted said. “The bottom line is we’ve asked them to put this in writing so that we have something that we can all work from because I don’t want to under-react or over-react to something. But until they give us the facts, I think it’s wise to be skeptical about what this really means.”
5. The 2018 Election: Husted said he expected to make an announcement in the late winter or early spring about his 2018 election plans.
He’s among the candidates rumored to be considering a run for governor (Attorney General Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Congressman Jim Renacci are among the other Republicans whose names come up in that conversation).
So far, only one candidate has made official his 2018 plans: Republican Treasurer Josh Mandel hopes to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown.
6. House Finance: The Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate named the chairmen of their finance committees.
Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) will again head the House panel.
“The state operating budget is the single greatest undertaking the legislature tackles during each general assembly, and ensuring its passage requires an experienced and knowledgeable leader at the helm,” Rosenberger said in a released statement. “Representative Smith has continually demonstrated the ability to bring all voices to the table and run the committee process in a way that is fair and organized. I am pleased to appoint him chair of the finance committee again this year and look forward to getting started on the governor’s budget proposal.”
7. And in the Senate: Canton-area Republican Scott Oelslager returns as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
“Scott’s one of the most respected members of the Ohio Senate, and he offers an incredible wealth of experience and institutional knowledge to the budget process,” Obhof said in a released statement. “He’s done a remarkable job guiding our chamber through the development of one of the most complex pieces of legislation we’ll consider throughout this general assembly. I look forward to relying on his steady leadership and sharp insights in what appears to be a challenging fiscal environment ahead."
8. The Budget: The Ohio House and Senate finance committees will be the centers of attention over the next five-plus months, as lawmakers tackle spending plans for the next two fiscal years.
Kasich will unveil his executive budget proposal before the end of the month.
9. Other Committees: Rosenberger also announced the heads of other House committees, with many chairs returning from last session.
The list included Rep. Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) as chairman of Agriculture and Rural Development, Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem) as chairman of Community and Family Advancement, Reps. Al Landis (R-Dover) and Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) as chairman and vice chairwoman of Energy and Natural Resources, Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) as chairwoman of Federalism and Interstate Relations, and Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) as chairman of the Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources.
10. Shelter: The Ohio Emergency Management Agency announced the availability of up to $4,875 in rebates for homeowners adding tornado-safe rooms to their residences.
The funding is available, via an application process, for up to 75 percent of the costs to construct an “extreme-wind shelter or space” to protect people during the violent storms.
“The entire state of Ohio is at risk of an EF5 tornado, which produces 250 mile per hour winds capable of destroying most structures,” Steve Ferryman, Ohio EMA’s mitigation branch chief, said in a released statement. “A safe room is built to withstand these winds and resulting airborne debris and provides near absolute protection for occupants.”
The deadline to apply is March 10. More details are available online at ema.ohio.gov.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.