April 11, 2023
Stivers Discusses Higher Education and Workforce Alignment
When it comes to workforce, “attainment is everything.” according to Ohio Chamber President and CEO Steve Stivers at a recent event for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Ohio (AICUO). Stivers joined Governor Mike DeWine, Chancellor Randy Gardner, and House Speaker Jason Stephens as a guest speaker at the AICUO’s Spring Meeting in Columbus. University presidents and other attendees heard assorted legislative briefings, discussed campus trends, and contemplated the numerous higher education measures in the proposed state operating budget.

Regarding attainment, Stivers cited how 3 million Ohio adults between ages 25-64 – roughly a quarter of the state’s population - do not have a postsecondary credential. He said the business community and higher education community need to be in lockstep and collaborate to produce the workers of tomorrow. Fortunately, from short-term certificates to our medical schools, the proposed investments in the state’s budget would empower all individuals, no matter their pathways in life, and enhance Ohio’s economic competitiveness.

Stivers described the proposed 92% increase to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) and the proposed Governor’s Merit Scholarship as critical toward reversing the trend of brain drain. Governor DeWine is looking to increase OCOG grant awards, or need-based tuition assistance, from the current $2,701 to $6,000 by FY25, almost tripling the amount of money students have available to help cover academic costs and stay in school. Additionally, the budget increases eligibility for OCOG, allowing this need-based financial aid to reach into the middle class for the first time.
The Governor’s Merit Scholarship is an innovative incentive to help make college more affordable while also keeping Ohio’s highest achieving high school graduates here to put down roots. The Governor’s Merit Scholarship would provide $5,000 scholarships to every student in the top 5% of their respective high school graduating classes. These are key measures that fit the Ohio Chamber’s Blueprint recommendation to “Grow Ohio’s Population and Recruit Out-of-State Workers” (Recommendation 3 under Education and Workforce). 

Another key item discussed during the program was the importance of FAFSA participation in Ohio. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the gateway to the largest source of financial aid toward college or career school. The FAFSA also unlocks additional eligibility for state and school financial aid among many states, colleges, and some private aid providers. The Ohio Chamber referenced data from the AICUO in the Blueprint about how Ohio high school students forgo $111 million annually in total unclaimed Pell Grant (federal, need-based grant) assistance due to Ohio students not completing the FAFSA. This unclaimed amount puts Ohio at a competitive disadvantage, with neighboring states having lower levels of unclaimed federal aid, including West Virginia ($18 million), Kentucky ($54 million), Indiana ($65 million), and Michigan ($89 million). 

By the end of September last year, Ohio’s FAFSA completion rate was 61.3%, an improvement over 60.1% from the previous year. Year-to-date completion for the Class of 2023 is slightly higher than this time last year, but Ohio has a long way to go and is forfeiting not just federal funds but also opportunities for our next generation. The Ohio Chamber supports the Governor’s budget proposal to implement universal FAFSA completion, knowing there would be opt-out provisions but also how completing this form enables Ohioans, particularly those who stand to become first generation college students, a pathway toward post-secondary attainment.
Minimum Wage Constitutional Amendment Certified by Attorney General Yost
On Wednesday, Attorney General Dave Yost certified the summary of the proposed constitutional amendment which sets the minimum wage at $15 an hour. This certification marks the completion of another procedural hurdle that the constitutional amendment must pass prior to it being placed on the November ballot. As stated in Attorney General Yost’s letter to the backers of the amendment, his certification takes no position on the “advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure” nor does it “offer an opinion of the enforceability or constitutionality” of the amendment. Rather, Attorney General Yost has a statutory duty to determine if the summary of the amendment is “fair and truthful” and whether it effectively summarizes the amendment in a manner that allows for potential signers of a petition to be advised of the measure’s character and impact. Often times, a summary is rejected if the summary omits pertinent information about the amendment or makes misstatements that would mislead potential signers.

The amendment now moves to the Ohio Ballot Board, where the body has until April 17 to meet and determine if the amendment contains a single subject. If the amendment clears the Ballot Board, proponents will be able to begin collecting the 413,487 signatures needed to place it on the ballot this November.

For more information about the citizen-initiated constitutional amendment process, click HERE. You can also read the full text of the $15 minimum wage amendment by clicking HERE.
Ohio Chamber Takes the Lead Against Business Identity Theft
Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers joined Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and State Senator Michael Rulli (R-Salem) at a recent press conference to propose new identity theft protections for Ohio businesses. The legislation, Senate Bill 98, addresses fraudulent business filings, business identity theft and deceptive mailings.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that one out of every ten people is a victim of identity theft, with thieves increasingly targeting businesses with potentially disastrous outcomes. A Dun & Bradstreet study reinforces this, reporting a 106% increase in business identity theft in 2018 and 254% increase in 2020.

Senate Bill 98, sponsored by Senator Rulli after consultation and development with Secretary LaRose and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, creates a host of new protections across four main areas:

1)    Fraudulent Filings – SB 98 creates a process for Ohio businesses and individuals to report when a bad actor has formed a new business fraudulently using someone else's address or personal info or has taken over a legitimate business filing to leverage it for fraud. These complaints will be referred to the Ohio Attorney General for investigation, and if fraud is discovered, the Secretary of State can then cancel the filing and redact victim information. This would significantly drive down the costs and time associated with resolution on these matters.

2)    Deceptive Mailings – SB 98 goes after the practice of misleading mailers that imitate official governmental entities and charge exorbitant amounts of money for public services that are typically free or at a very low cost. The bill includes a new provision requiring large and bold statements to clarify that solicitations are not being sent by a government agency, reducing the likelihood of customers sending money to deceptive entities. Violating this section would be a violation of deceptive trade practices.

3)    Limiting Reinstatements – Some bad actors fraudulently reinstate a very old business without any connection to the business, and then use the business’ history and/or good credit to obtain a business loan or to apply for unclaimed funds. SB 98 limits reinstatements to two years from the date of cancellation, unless an affidavit demonstrating the accuracy of the entity is provided. This reduces the ability of thieves to reinstate and exploit old businesses for illegal purposes.

4)    Inaccurate Agent Addresses - Fraudulent businesses frequently use false address information or a PO Box address or a commercial mailbox address to hide their identities. SB 98 requires an agent’s address to be a residential address or a business address and does not permit the use of a PO Box or other commercial mailbox such as a UPS store.

Stivers thanked Senator Rulli and Secretary LaRose for their leadership on this important issue. “The issue of business identity theft is a rising issue for our members. That makes it an issue for the Ohio Chamber,” remarked Stivers. “Business identity theft harms business owners, employees, investors, shareholders, and even customers with staggering consequences. If you are a small business and your identity is compromised, no one presently is empowered to help you, and that’s what Senate Bill 98 will tackle.”

Senate Bill 98 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it awaits hearings. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce plans to testify as a proponent and urges legislators to pass these critical protections for Ohio’s business community.
Energy and Environmental Policy
It was a quiet week with the Ohio Legislature on a spring break. Committees did not meet, but the Senate did introduce the new utility ratemaking bill, Senate Bill 102, sponsored by Sen. Wilkin (R-Hillsboro). SB 102 picks up where House Bill 317 from the 134th General Assembly left off. HB 317 received 8 hearings but did not receive a vote of the committee. The Ohio Chamber will monitor the bill and provide updates as the bill receives hearings in the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.
Taxation Update
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce provided comments to the Ohio Department of Taxation concerning the proposed rescission of Administrative Rule 5703-3-12. The Ohio Chamber asked for a meeting of interested parties or, alternatively, that the Department move to a "no change" position for the rule.

In other news, the House had an April 5 deadline for the submission of amendments for the pending budget (HB 33). Several tax measures may find their way into the budget bill. Early news of what amendments were accepted could be made public next week. The legislature will restart work on HB 33 in the week of April 17 and likely send the measure to the Senate in May.