This Week in Public Policy: February 15 - 19, 2021

This Week in Public Policy, written by DD Council staff person Paul Jarvis, provides a summary of policy and legislation in Ohio and at the federal level that is of interest to people with disabilities.

To subscribe to these weekly updates, send an email to Paul Jarvis at paul.jarvis@dodd.ohio.gov.

Click here to read updates from previous weeks.


In Ohio

House Bill 31 was scheduled to receive SPONSOR Testimony on Tuesday, February 16, 2021, however, inclement weather caused the cancellation of committees on Tuesday. Early word is that an opportunity to testify on House Bill 31 will be on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. Keep an eye out for any announcement next week.

On Wednesday, February 17, 2021, the House Finance Committee heard testimony on the state’s Transportation Budget (House Bill 74). The transportation budget proposes massive cuts to public transportation funding (nearly 40%). Testimony was opened up to the public, and there were a large number of organizations who testified on the issue of funding for public transportation contained in the bill. Many local public transit agencies testified that cuts to the public transportation line item would negatively impact the number of routes and the services they can provide, particularly to individuals with disabilities and the elderly. The Committee also heard public testimony on Thursday, February 18.

On Thursday, February 18, 2021, the Ohio House passed House Bill 2 (Broadband Expansion) by a vote of 91-5. The bill would provide state funding to Internet Service Providers to expand their service areas to unserved areas of the state. The House added an emergency clause to the bill which would make the program go into effect immediately. House Bill 2 now goes to the Senate for further deliberations.

In Washington

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NEXT Week in Public Policy: February 22 - 26, 2021

In Ohio

On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation will hold a hearing on the Transportation Budget (HB 74). Slated to testify are: OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks, ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks, Director of Public Safety Tom Stickrath, Rail Development Commission Director Matthew Dietrich, Board of Motor Vehicle Repair Director Michael Greene, and Public Works Commission Director Linda Bailiff. The hearing will take place at 2:00 p.m. in Room 313 of the Ohio Statehouse.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, the Senate Health Committee will hold SPONSOR Testimony on Senate Bill 58 (Esther’s Law). The bill would allow electronic monitoring of a resident’s room for individuals living in long-term care facilities. The hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. in the North Hearing Room of the Ohio Senate Building.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee will hold OPPONENT Testimony on Senate Bill 17 (SNAP Eligibility). The bill would make changes to the eligibility requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), create work and education requirements for certain Medicaid recipients (Medicaid Group VIII), add a photograph to SNAP benefit cards, and make other changes. The hearing will take place at 10:30 a.m. in the South Hearing Room of the Ohio Statehouse.

On Wednesday, February 24, 2021, the Senate Transportation Committee has scheduled their first hearing of House Bill 74 (Transportation Budget). The hearing will provide an opportunity for invited witnesses to testify on the bill. Invited to testify are: DOT Director Jack Marchbanks, Director of Public Safety Tom Stickrath, Highway Patrol Colonel Richard Fambro and Turnpike Commission Director Ferzan Ahmed. Although the House has not completed it’s work on the Transportation Budget, the deadline to complete work on the bill is March 31, 2021. The hearing will take place at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Finance Hearing Room.

At publication time, the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services had not yet released their hearing schedule. Unofficial word is the Subcommittee will be meeting starting on Tuesday and hearing from each of the cabinet directors, followed by a panel of invited organizations. Ohio Department of DD is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday. Meeting dates, along with agendas, can be found here.

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council continues to seek public input on their proposed 5-Year Plan on Developmental Disabilities. Anyone can offer public comment on the plan. The Council has created a page on its website that includes plain-language descriptions of the projects in their plan, and has links to official plan language for review. Interested parties are able to comment on all or select parts of the state plan. The deadline to submit comments is Sunday, February 28th, 2021.

In Washington

On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on the nominee for the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Bacerra. The hearing will take place at 10:00 a.m. in Room 430 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. The hearing will be streamed live here.

On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, the House Committee and Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, will hold a hearing entitled, “Pathway to Protection; Expanding Availability of COVID-19 Vaccines.” Invited to testify are: John Young (Pfizer), Dr. Stephen Hoge (Moderna), Dr. Richard Nettles (Johnson & Johnson), Dr. Ruud Dobber (AstraZeneca) and John Trizzino (Novavax, Inc.). The hearing will take place at 10:30 a.m.


Upcoming Dates/Events

The DD Awareness and Advocacy Day is scheduled to be a VIRTUAL event on March 2, 2021. The event will still have a formal program beginning at 10:00 a.m. and offer advocates from across the state an opportunity to meet with their legislator via video chat throughout the day. Registration has closed for this event.


Facts That May Only Interest Me: In January of this year, the University of Illinois Chicago issued a paper announcing gene therapy had cured two patients of beta thalassemia and sickle cell disease. The gene editing modified the DNA of stem cells by deleting a specific gene (BCL11A) that is responsible for stopping the production of fetal hemoglobin. The gene therapy used in this cure is called CRISPR-Cas9 Technology. The CRISPR-Cas9 Technology is believed to also be a cure for some blindness (pending human trials). Since the January 21 announcement of a successful trial, the stock value of CRISPR has dropped nearly 20%.