The Gongwer Blog

by Scott Miller, President

Gongwer Announces New Board, Commission Tracking, Other Features

Posted: August 10, 2021 7:24 AM

Gongwer News Service today announced an exclusive and groundbreaking board and commission tracking system, along with several other upgrades that assist subscribers in monitoring Ohio's executive branch activities.

The services allow subscribers to track executive agency boards and commissions and receive alerts when those entities schedule meetings.

Further, new Gongwer pages for key boards and commissions include member information, contact details and long-term schedules, and will include future Gongwer articles regarding those entities.

From the State Board of Education to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to the State Controlling Board to the Casino Control Commission, and scores of other boards, this new service delivers resources unavailable anywhere else.

Built on Gongwer's leading tracking system, subscribers who track boards and commissions can choose to receive updates via email or text message and can choose to receive those messages in real time or at the end of the day.

The new system is integrated with Gongwer's Ohio Report and scheduling services, continuing efforts to make Gongwer products the most interactive and reliable service on the market.

With new service, the track buttons in the Ohio Report also now will show as "Tracked" if users already are tracking that bill, legislative committee or board/commission.

Subscribers are already able to track several other items, including legislation, legislators, committees, keywords, ORC sections and more. (Tracking page)

This year, Gongwer has released several new service enhancements, including alerts for news coverage categories, improved legislative status reports and a legislative staff contact service.

Additional service enhancements are in development and will be announced in the near future.

Report Card Overhaul Awaits Governor's Signature

Posted: June 28, 2021 4:43 PM

The House on Friday finalized legislation establishing a revamped accountability system for the state's K-12 school buildings and districts.

The chamber voted 89-3 to concur in Senate amendments establishing a report card system with five graded categories and a five-star rating system.

The language had previously been added to legislation (HB 82*) initially focused on allowing students to opt out of state-mandated college admissions tests. (LSC Analysis)

That measure cleared the Senate Thursday, teeing up a House concurrence vote Friday which prompted dissents from Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland), Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Twp.) and Rep. Jena Powell (R-Laura). (See Gongwer Ohio Report, June 23, 2021)

Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport) said the changes are the fruit of a stakeholder process going back years.

"Our goals for report cards were to make them simpler, transparent, equitable and more accurate to get a better understanding of what's happening in our schools and this legislation accomplishes that," he said.

The five graded categories on the proposed report card would be achievement, progress, gap closing, early literacy and graduation rate.

A sixth component – college, career, workforce and military readiness would remain ungraded for at least three years.

Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) has described the bill as a compromise between a proposal he led (SB 145*) and a bipartisan House plan (HB 200*).

The report card provisions in HB82 have won support from education interests including the Alliance for High Quality Education, Columbus City Schools, Ohio Excels, the Ohio Association for Gifted Children and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Rep. Jones called it a "comprehensive piece of legislation" and a "fair compromise" between the two chambers.

"I'm very proud of the work we've done," Rep. Jones said.

Rep. Phillip Robinson (D-Solon) agreed, thanking the stakeholders who spent hours-long meetings to ensure the legislation could get across the finish line before summer break.

"This is a fair compromise given the circumstances," Rep. Robinson said. "We think this moves us in the right direction."

"This is a down payment," Rep. Robinson added. "There's still more work to be done."

Among those applauding the bill's movement was Chad Aldis, vice president for Ohio policy at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

"State legislators should be commended for making these smart, commonsense course corrections," Mr. Aldis said in a statement. "The new report card will allow Ohio to successfully reboot its school accountability system after pandemic-related pauses, drive academic improvements in schools for the benefit of students, and ensure that Ohio parents have honest, accurate information that helps them choose greater schools that work for their kids."

Ohio Excels also welcomed passage, with President Lisa Gray saying: "Ohio's business community understands the importance of maintaining a report card system that clearly, honestly and fairly evaluates schools and school districts, and we believe the updated school report cards in House Bill 82 will help keep Ohio a national model for measuring the success of our schools."

End Draws Near For Budget Process

Posted: June 23, 2021 2:09 PM

Lawmakers could put their final touches on the state operating budget this week, just as soon as they sort out hundreds of differences between the House and Senate's versions of the bill.

The conference committee on the two-year spending outline (HB 110*) is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning, but when the final business of sifting through the many disagreements will happen depends on when negotiators reach a deal. The panel is expected to recess immediately after convening.

Conferees heard last week that they have about $3 billion more in anticipated tax revenue for the next biennium to work with as the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic has gone better than initially expected.

That extra money will help because the House and Senate have some big disagreements, chief among them being school financing. The lower chamber included in its proposal a historic overhaul of the beleaguered formula, known as the Fair School Funding Plan.

The Senate-passed budget replace the House's K-12 funding formula with its own version with a lower average base cost per-pupil – a move that has irked public school advocates. The upper chamber's spending outline also eliminates millions in spending to help districts purchase school buses over two years. (See separate story).

Another major difference stems from the Senate's change to the Step Up to Quality program for publicly funded child care. The upper chamber proposed eliminating a mandate that providers participate in the quality incentive program and a mandate that they achieve higher ratings in 2025.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has said the move is designed to ensure wider access to some form of child care and to avert a future fiscal problem as costs rise while funds the state has been drawing on to pay for the program are depleted. Child care advocates, meanwhile, have said it will lead to families receiving lower quality early education. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, June 3, 2021)

In Medicaid, the Senate addition of language to require the state to re-do the procurement process for new managed care plans has drawn criticism from groups who say it could jeopardize planned improvements. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, June 4, 2021)

Broadband expansion is also a subject of negotiations, as the Senate cut $190 million that had been planned for the recently created Ohio Residential Broadband Program. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, June 4, 2021)

Sen. Huffman said last week he anticipates a significant amount of money will be included in the budget for broadband. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, June 18, 2021)

Aside from the most-discussed issues, lawmakers face hundreds of decisions big and small as they hash out the final budget. Some examples from the nearly 500-page differences-only comparison document:

  • The Senate version included a requirement that the Department of Aging expand the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly to Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Lorain and Toledo, in addition to the current program in Cleveland.
  • The Senate's version prohibits public officials from settling civil actions in a way that nullifies, suspends or conflicts with the Revised Code. The attorney general would also be prohibited from agreeing to settlements that award more than $10,000 to the state without approval of the governor, Senate president and House speaker.
  • Included in the Senate version was a provision modifying an exemption from the public records law for telephone numbers of victims and witnesses to crimes and parties to motor vehicle accidents.
  • Added by the Senate was language allowing the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board to contract for an on-call architect engineer to advise and consult with the board.
  • The Senate included language stating an employer doesn't violate the Ohio Civil Rights Law when taking an action against a person who uses medical marijuana in violation of a workplace policy.
  • The House removed a provision in the executive budget that would hold harmless the holder of unclaimed funds as long as the holder acted in good faith and incompliance with the law, but the Senate restored it.
  • The House added a provision re-establishing the Historical Boiler Licensing Board, which was then removed by the Senate.
  • R liquor permit holders would be allowed to repackage alcohol under certain conditions under a proposal in the Senate's version.
  • The House proposed increasing the number of days ahead of a meeting that the Controlling Board must publish its agenda, from seven to 14, but the Senate removed it.
  • Language creating a Court of Claims procedure for hearing complaints about violations of the Open Meetings Law was included by the Senate.
  • A provision in the Senate version would require the Department of Development to publish descriptions of and eligibility and application requirements for its loan and grant programs. (All three versions agree on changing the agency's name from the Development Services Agency.)
  • The Senate proposed the creation of a grant program for meat processing plants in the Department of Development.
  • Preneed funeral contracts and related information in mandatory reports submitted to the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors would be exempted from public records law in the Senate version.
  • The Senate's proposal eliminates a $100 fee for renewal of coverage for a permit for a household sewage treatment system.
  • The House proposed changes to water bottle filling station requirements by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, but the Senate eliminated that language.
  • The Senate increased the eligibility age for the Program for Medically Handicapped Children from 21 to 22 on July 1, 2021, and to 23 a year later.
  • The maximum age for a child's family to be eligible for home visiting services through the Help Me Grow program was increased from three to five years old in the executive and House versions, but the provision was removed by the Senate.
  • The House removed an executive provision to allow joint health districts to levy a property tax levy for operating expenses, but the Senate restored it.
  • An executive provision allowing the Department of Health to issue orders, take corrective action and impose fines on nursing homes or related facilities was modified by the House, but the Senate removed it entirely.
  • The Senate's budget would allow the Chancellor of Higher Education to approve nursing bachelor's degree programs at community colleges if they meet certain requirements.
  • The House created a Commercial Truck Driver Student Aid Program, but it wasn't included in the Senate's version.
  • Same-party members of House and Senate committees would be able to meet without violating the Open Meetings Law under a House provision that was not included in the Senate's version.
  • The Senate proposal called for the Department of Medicaid to institute a supplemental dispensing fee for retail pharmacies, totaling more than $15 million plus corresponding federal shares.
  • Language proposed by the Senate would require the Department of Natural Resources to reimburse school districts and other taxing units for part of the foregone property tax revenue resulting from the acquisition of land to create Jesse Owens State Park and Wildlife Area and Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area.
  • The Senate proposed an increase in the share of General Revenue Fund tax revenue going to the Public Library Fund, to the tune of about $11 million per year.
  • The House included language creating an income tax deduction starting in 2026 for capital gains received by investors in certain Ohio-based venture capital operating companies, but the Senate took it out.
  • The temporary authorization for public bodies to meet electronically would be extended from July 1 to Dec. 31 under a House provision, but the Senate removed that language.

Gongwer Enhances Tracking System With Special Coverage Alerts

Posted: April 29, 2021 9:24 AM

Gongwer News Service today announced an additional enhancement to its tracking system by allowing subscribers to receive alerts based on special coverage categories.

For years, Gongwer subscribers have been able to view coverage that falls into a wide range of subject matter categories. Now, users can elect to receive alerts whenever a new article matches a category of interest.

To receive an alert based on a category, users can click the green plus sign next to the name of any category of interest on the Special Coverage page.

Alerts can be delivered via email and/or text message. (Update preferences).

All tracked categories are also displayed on the Gongwer Tracking page.

The new service continues Gongwer's recent service enhancements, including:

  • Allowing the display of positions and posting of documents on bill status reports;
  • Permitting the use of multiple logos and customized headers on status reports;
  • Allowing tracked bills to be exported into Excel spreadsheets;
  • Creation of a dedicated state budget resource;
  • Development of a dedicated redistricting page, and;
  • Integrating committee webcasts in schedules and the Gongwer Ohio Report.

Additional service enhancements are in development and will be announced in the near future.

Notice regarding text alerts: Gongwer subscribers who receive messages via text and who may have changed mobile carriers are encouraged to update carrier information at this location. Those users may need to restart their devices to receive text messages after changing carrier information.

Gongwer Offers Short-Term Budget Sprint Subscription

Posted: April 13, 2021 9:53 AM

With the state budget bill and several key appropriations bills heading into an essential time, Gongwer News Service is offering a short-term subscription option that will bring you all the details you need to monitor key legislative decisions.

The Budget Sprint subscription includes access to all Gongwer services – unmatched Statehouse news, bill tracking and alerts, schedules and much more – through the time the state budget bill is signed.

Those subscribing for the budget sprint will also be able to make use of Gongwer's best-in-class bill status and tracking reports, and share those reports with clients, associates and others.

Users will also have access to a number of recent service enhancements, including enhanced committee tracking, integrated webcasts, legislative staff contact tools, enhanced bill status reports and more.

The budget sprint subscription includes access for up to five people on staff at the subscribing organization and is available for $500.

Full details on Gongwer's services are available at here and here.

Subscribing is easy.

Just email gongwer@gongwer-oh.com and indicate that you want to start the Budget Sprint subscription. Send the names & email addresses of your organization's users, and your access will begin immediately.

Or return this form to gongwer@gongwer-oh.com.

Don't wait. Get Gongwer now, and you will have the news and information you need to stay on top of Statehouse developments as final budget details are determined.

Get Unmatched Budget Coverage, Details With Gongwer

Posted: February 26, 2021 9:41 AM

Gongwer News Service subscribers have access to unmatched coverage and resources regarding Ohio's ongoing state budget process.

In February alone, Gongwer published 50 in-depth budget-related articles, in addition to providing coverage of numerous budget subcommittees.

In January, Gongwer subscribers had access to almost two dozen budget preview articles, plus agency budget requests.

All Gongwer budget coverage is archived on a dedicated budget page that offers a one-stop resource for the budget bills, committees reviewing the spending plans, lawmaker contact tools and more.

For information about Gongwer services, which also include leading bill tracking and alert services, enhanced tools to share legislative information with members and clients and much more, visit www.gongwer-oh.com or contact us at 614.221.1992.

Bob Drumheller, Longtime Gongwer Exec And Editor, Has Died

Posted: February 17, 2021 9:34 AM

Robert J. "Bob" Drumheller, a former longtime executive and leader of Gongwer News Service's Ohio operations, has died. He was 71.

A newsman until the end, Mr. Drumheller passed while watching the U.S. Senate's impeachment hearings.

Mr. Drumheller started his Gongwer career in 1971, shortly after graduating from Ohio State University. He initially covered late-night legislative committees, often working side-by-side with former Gongwer owner William F. Baird.

Years later, he became a Gongwer partner and co-owner, helping lead coverage of Ohio state government and pioneering the company's first venture into what was then a new and emerging digital era.

He was a former president of the Ohio Legislative Correspondents Association, elected by his peers to represent the interests of Statehouse journalists. A facts-driven reporter, he earned and retained the respect of governors, department directors, justices, legislative leaders and countless others who walked the Statehouse halls.

A fierce competitor for news, he also mentored dozens of Statehouse reporters as they entered the profession.

As a journalist and editor, he held a strong command of the written and spoken language and had a life-long fondness for literature.

Mr. Drumheller retired from Gongwer in 2005, leaving Ohio for retirement on a Tennessee farm. He later moved to south Florida, where he died.

Mr. Drumheller is survived by his wife of 37 years, Marg; sons Jacob (Caitlin) of Fairfax City, Virginia; and Jeremy (fiancée Katherine Lawler) of Falls Church, Virginia; three grandsons, Rhys, Ciaran and Lucas; and many other family members.

A private service is scheduled for Thursday, February 18.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in Mr. Drumheller's memory can be made to St. Charles Preparatory School, 2010 E. Broad St., Columbus OH 43209 or Power of the Pen, P.O. Box 442, Richfield OH 44286.

Gongwer Status Reports Gain New Features, Flexibility

Posted: February 8, 2021 9:29 AM

Gongwer News Service today announced a series of new features that allow subscribers to further personalize bill tracking status reports.

Under the enhancements, subscribers can upload different logos and display customized headers for each tracking group, allowing more customization for clients and organization members.

The ability to export tracked bills to other formats also has been enhanced. Already available to export to a Word document, subscribers also now can easily export all bills being tracked, and bills being tracked within each tracking group, into an Excel spreadsheet. Excel exports can include positions taken and comments posted regarding legislation.

The new features can be used by selecting a status report or tracking group and clicking View or Edit Report on the Gongwer Bill Tracking page.

The enhancements follow other Gongwer announcements, including the activation of a dedicated state budget resource page, creation of a single source for redistricting information, integrated committee schedules and webcasts, more robust committee resources and the ability to post positions and documents related to tracked bills. (Recent enhancements)

Additional details on Gongwer's services can be found in the Bill Tracking Guide and Quick Start Guide.

Gongwer Introduces New Legislative Staff Directories, Contact Tools

Posted: January 21, 2021 10:10 AM

Gongwer News Service today announced the availability of new legislative staff directories and a feature that allows subscribers to easily communicate with staff via email.

The feature (House, Senate) is included with each Gongwer subscription.

The staff email service is an expansion of Gongwer's contact tools that allow subscribers to directly email or mail state lawmakers. Those communications can be targeted by chamber, caucus, committee and committee caucus.

Gongwer subscribers also have access to a contact tools feature that allows one-click email delivery to all members of the Statehouse press corps.

Additional details about Gongwer's services are available in the Gongwer Bill Tracking Guide and Gongwer Quick Start Guide.

Gongwer Activates Dedicated Budget Resource

Posted: January 11, 2021 10:51 AM

With the release of Gov. Mike DeWine's executive budget proposal set for the near future, Gongwer News Service has activated its dedicated budget page for the upcoming process.

The page will serve as a one-stop location for a variety of resources, including:

  • key documents from the executive and legislative branches;
  • text and information about the various budget bills;
  • rosters, schedules and details on the committees hearing the budget;
  • contact tools for budget committees, and;
  • Gongwer's extensive and unmatched budget coverage.

The page will be updated regularly as new content and resources become available.

For additional information about Gongwer's comprehensive news, bill tracking and other services, visit www.gongwer-oh.com.

Gongwer Year-End & New Session Notice

Posted: January 4, 2021 10:33 AM

With the 134th General Assembly set to convene on later today, Gongwer News Service offers the following notices and reminders about bill tracking, schedules, directories and other services.

Effective immediately, Gongwer's platform will recognize the 134th General Assembly as the current active session.

As a result, all bills tracked during the current session will continue to be available through the Bill Tracking page by selecting the 2019-2020 session on the right side of the screen.

Additionally, tracking groups created for the 133rd General Assembly will remain in each user's profile and bills from the previous session will continue to display in those groups.

Gongwer has prepared a series of resources for subscribers as the new session begins. This includes directories, photo guides and other resources. Gongwer's contact tools are active for the entire legislature, and committee-level contact tools will be activated when committee assignments are announced early in 2021.

A pocket directory for the new legislature will also be available when committee assignments are released.

Information on members of the outgoing 133rd General Assembly will remain in the Gongwer archives.

Gongwer's news and legislation archives date to 2003, and access to that information is available to all subscribers.

2020 marks the end of a year when Gongwer implemented countless new subscriber services and improvements, including:

Additional service enhancements are in development and will be announced in early 2021. Subscriber suggestions for upgrades, changes and adjustments are welcome and can be sent to smiller@gongwer-oh.com.

The Gongwer staff wishes all subscribers, their families and friends the best for the new year.

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