Census Bureau pushes back on Attorney General Dave Yost’s attempts to get data by end of March: Capitol Letter

I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that: Officials with the U.S. Census Bureau say Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is seeking the impossible by trying to force them to release complete census data by March 31. Yost sued the census bureau last month, saying the bureau’s plan to release the data six months late would cause the state to miss legal deadlines in its redistricting process. As Andrew Tobias reports, a federal judge also granted voter-rights groups and local governments permission to participate in the case on Monday after the groups said releasing the complete data by March 31 would violate an agreement that settled a different lawsuit that said no census data would be released before April 16.

Earmarks return: Democrats who control Congress are planning to restore earmarks: funding for projects that are requested by individual legislators, writes Sabrina Eaton. Republicans including Ohio’s Sen. Rob Portman and Jim Jordan want the ban on earmarks to continue, arguing that they contribute to waste and corruption.

Au revoir: State Rep. Mark Fraizer, a Newark Republican, expects the Ohio House of Representatives to expel former House Speaker Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican, as soon as this week, the Newark Advocate’s Kent Mallett reports. Republicans said last year after Householder’s arrest on a federal racketeering charge from the House Bill 6 scandal that they would wait until 2021 to expel him, since he could only be expelled once. But so far, they haven’t acted.

Payday: By delaying Householder’s expulsion, the former speaker has collected more than $44,000 in state pay since his arrest, with $16,873.29 banked in 2021 alone. To put that into perspective, a full-time minimum wage worker in Ohio makes $17,100 per year.

Ken you dig it? Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor appointed a three-judge panel to hear Attorney General Dave Yost’s request that indicted Cleveland City Councilman Ken Johnson be suspended from office, Robert Higgs report. The panel has 14 days to consider Yost’s case against Johnson, who was arrested in February on 15 federal charges including being accused of pilfering $127,000 from the city through false expense reports.

Case load: Ohio has now reported more than 990,000 cases as of Monday, though for the third straight day, the death toll remained unchanged, Jeremy Pelzer reports. Also on Monday, the media got a look inside the mass vaccination operation opening this week at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University. David Petkiewicz has photos and details.

COVID-19 levels: Those months-long sharp drops in Ohio coronavirus cases & hospitalizations have leveled off in the last week. Cases were down slightly while hospitalizations were up a bit, Rich Exner reports. But both measures remain far better than in December and January.

Quarantine rules: A new state order allows students exposed in the classroom to continue with sports or extracurriculars without quarantining – if there are no symptoms. Emily Bamforth reports the order requires students to follow CDC guidance if the exposure is outside a school setting.

Fossil feud: Ohio Republican lawmakers are again looking to hamstring local governments’ ability to pass pro-environmental ordinances — this time, by proposing bills that would prohibit local bans on natural gas and electricity generated from fossil fuels. As Jeremy Pelzer reports, the bills come amid both a nationwide movement to pass local fossil-fuel bans and continue a battle by Ohio lawmakers to block environmentalists’ attempts to pass green-energy measures at the local level.

Just a taste: Dayton restaurateurs who are eligible for a $28.6 billion revitalization program included in the coronavirus stimulus bill told the Dayton Daily News’ Eric Schwartzberg that they’re ecstatic about the dollars, but still have a lot of work to do to get to pre-coronavirus levels. Since restaurants closed in March 2020, the industry has lost $255 billion in revenue, with 110,000 eateries closing for good.

Camera shy: The coronavirus pandemic has completely changed the meaning of “public meeting” for legislative bodies, and Ohio’s isn’t any different. As the Associated Press’ David Lieb reports, Ohio is one of just 13 legislatures that don’t allow people to testify remotely, even though it is the safer option with coronavirus still present.

Top of the Summit: The Ohio Supreme Court will hear whether Summit County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Williams will get his seat back on the Summit County Board of Elections after Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose rejected Williams’ reappointment, Robin Goist reports. LaRose sanctioned the board earlier this month for poor handling of the November 2020 election, saying that likely led to disenfranchisement of voters.

Bernie v. Biden: The Wall Street Journal’s Eliza Collins took a dive into the 11th Congressional District race to fill the vacancy left by U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, one of the first Democratic litmus tests of the “progressive vs. establishment” squabble within the party. Former state Sen. Nina Turner, a close ally of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Shontel Brown, a mentee of Fudge, are the two highest profile candidates in the crowded Democratic primary.

Venture capital: Author and investor J.D. Vance’s PAC received $10 million from PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, a possible sign that Vance is gearing up for a run for Senate, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jessie Balmert reports. Vance, best known as an author of the memoir “Hillbilly Elegy,” toyed with running in 2018, but decided against doing so. His PAC, Protect Ohio Values, was formed Feb. 24 of this year.

Days gone by: The open Senate seat in Ohio is going to undoubtedly be one of the most contested in recent memory. USA Today looked back at other times there was an open Senate seat in Ohio, from John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum’s first duel in 1970 to 2010, when Rob Portman, John Kasich and Mike DeWine were all considering bids for governor, coming up with a split solution that changed Ohio politics for the next decade.

Maxed out: Max Miller’s primary challenge to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, a Rocky River Republican, may not come to fruition for one simple reason: the district may not exist. As Bloomberg’s Gregory Korte and Mark Niquette report, the current winding nature of the 16th Congressional District may be untenable with Ohio’s new redistricting laws.

On the borderline: As the House of Representatives prepares to vote on immigration legislation later this week, Bainbridge Township Republican Rep. Dave Joyce visited the U.S. border with Mexico on Monday with a group of Congress members led by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy. “There’s a 173% increase in the last month of people coming across the border, kids coming across the border,” Joyce said at a press conference. “It’s a legal crisis, it’s a humanitarian crisis and it needs to be fixed.”

Money on the way: The IRS is moving forward with direct stimulus payments even for those who have yet to file their 2020 tax forms due by April 15. For households for which 2020 tax forms have not yet been received and processed, the IRS will use 2019 tax records on file to issue payments, officials say, noting their goal of 100 million payments in 10 days. But no word you on how people who received unemployment in 2020 can claim the new tax deduction for those benefits, Exner reports.

Anarchy in the Queen City? After a lawsuit filed by a Cincinnati resident claiming the petition filing process was unconstitutional, there exists a scenario where there are no candidates for Cincinnati’s mayoral election this year, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Sharon Coolidge reports. Party leaders said they don’t know what happens if the Ohio Supreme Court sides with Mark Miller in the suit.

Paid in full: There’s a long held belief by some that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes, but as the Columbus Dispatch’s Danae King reports, that isn’t the total picture. Between 50% and 75% of undocumented immigrants pay taxes each year – federal, state and local – and have been since 1996 through a program created by the IRS.

Five things we learned from the Feb. 1, 2020 financial disclosure form of state Rep. Sharon Ray, a Wadsworth Republican.

1. As a candidate instead of an elected official in 2020, Ray was not required to list how much income shemade butlisted her sources of income. She received money from the Medina County Board of Elections, the Wadsworth Municipal Court as a bailiff, pensions from the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System and State Street, interest income from the Medina County Federal Credit Union and dividends from Prudential Financial.

2. Ray’s investments included stocks and bonds through deferred compensation, stocks through Acorns Investments and a family trust.

3. At some point in 2019, Ray owed more than $1,000 totheMedina County Federal Credit Union, Capital One Mastercard and Frontier Mastercard.

4. She reported nobody owed her more than $1,000.

5. Ray reported no fiduciary relationships or rental real estate.

Dave Greenspan, a former state representative who lost his re-election bid in November, is now a lobbyist for the MetroHealth system in Cleveland.

Kirstin Alvanitakis announced she was leaving her spot as Ohio Democratic Party communications director.

“I wish there was a Magic 8-Ball out there saying: This is what you’re supposed to do. We had people coming from very different angles. I always realized there’s no perfect solution for everyone.”

-Wyoming, Ohio School Superintendent Tim Weber quoted by the Wall Street Journal in a story documenting the affluent Cincinnati suburb’s approach to returning to in-person learning.

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