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Rotunda Rumblings

A new era: Ohio Congress members who attended President Joe Biden’s inauguration hope for less rancor during his administration, Sabrina Eaton reports. “I’m hopeful that as we enter the 117th Congress, we can leave the toxic red team versus blue team mentality at the door and remember how to work together as Americans,” said a representative statement from Bainbridge Township Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce.

Over the rainbow: Members of the U.S. Senate highlighted a rainbow-themed painting by Civil War-era African-American Cincinnati artist Robert Duncanson during inaugural festivities at the U.S. Capitol, with Missouri Republican U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt telling Biden that rainbows “are always a good sign.” He said First Lady Jill Biden helped pick out the painting, which was on loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

All quiet: As Biden was being sworn in Wednesday, state highway patrol troopers and other law-enforcement officials continued to make a show of force at the Ohio Statehouse. Though the Statehouse had been reportedly discussed as a potential target by a self-described militia group, only a couple of demonstrators were seen on the Statehouse grounds – one of whom held a sign with a lengthy “thank you” to Trump. Late Wednesday afternoon, about 50 Black Lives Matter demonstrators showed up outside the Statehouse.

Price tag: The heightened security at the Ohio Statehouse over the past week has cost nearly $850,000 so far, Andrew Tobias reports. The number is only an estimate for the National Guard members who were deployed in downtown Columbus amid heighted security concerns and doesn’t include the cost of special detail for state troopers.

Sweet swearing-in: Columbus-based Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is releasing White House Chocolate Chip in honor of Biden’s inauguration. As Marc Bona writes, “the flavor features crunch chocolate flakes from Theo Chocolate and buttery, chocolate-covered waffle-cone pieces. The concoction is wrapped in vanilla ice cream.” Biden visited Jeni’s headquarters in 2016 to announce a federal overtime pay rule — and sample the company’s wares.

Pen pals: Gov. Mike DeWine has asked the Biden administration for additional coronavirus vaccines and more federal funding in response to a request for feedback from the Biden team. As Tobias reports, DeWine in a letter this week requested additional flexibility in state and local government funding, a national vaccination plan for migrant workers who travel across state lines, continued increased federal support for Medicaid, among other asks.

Shot down: The Ohio Department of Health is suspending future coronavirus vaccine allocations to SpecialtyRx after 890 of the 1,500 doses the company received are not viable because it failed to properly monitor temperatures of cold storage refrigerators and freezers, Laura Hancock reports. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy is investigating the matter.

Outbreak update: On Wednesday, Ohio reported 6,378 new coronavirus cases and 73 new deaths, Hancock reports.

Party’s over? Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor wants judicial candidates’ party affiliation to be eliminated from ballots, Hancock reports. Ohio’s the only state that has partisan judicial primaries but no party designation on general election ballots.

Try again: DeWine on Wednesday asked a nominating committee for a new list of four finalists to fill a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio seat vacated by Sam Randazzo, who resigned following an FBI search of his home related to the House Bill 6 bribery scandal. As Jeremy Pelzer reports, the governor made the demand after he appointed one of the initial four finalists, ex-Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French, as director of the Ohio Department of Insurance.

Unemployment wait: While many people have begun to receive their extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits, others may have to wait a month or more to file claims for expanded benefits that were part of the stimulus package signed into law just after Christmas, Ohio’s unemployment chief said Wednesday. Kim Henderson said the state’s vendor is working through program issues under changes in the new stimulus package, though she said eight states are up and running, Rich Exner reports.

Chips cashed: Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who in 2009 led a successful voter effort to legalize casino gambling in Ohio, quietly has sold his ownership interest in JACK Entertainment. But both the Cleveland casino and racino in Thistledown continue to operate as JACK under a new ownership structure, reports Exner. Gilbert opened the Cleveland casino in May 2012 as Cleveland’s first casino, initially operating as Horsehoe Cleveland in partnership with Caesars.

Supreme land: The Ohio Supreme Court will hear oral arguments April 13 on the Ohio History Connection’s eminent domain of the 2,000-year-old Octagon Mounds in Newark, near Columbus, one of several sites of the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, which have been proposed for nomination to the UNESCO World Heritage List. A country club that leases the land from the historical society is fighting the effort, according to the Associated Press.

Disobeying Dad: While Gov. DeWine has been urging Ohioans to avoid large gatherings, wear masks and avoid eating with people outside their households, his son Pat (an Ohio Supreme Court justice) did all three things at a holiday party in Cincinnati last Tuesday. DeWine – who is considering a run for chief justice next year – apologized to the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Jessie Balmert: “I try to follow the guidelines. I should have been wearing a mask when I was photographed.”

Strong finish: The final three months of 2020 were very good ones for the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, as the state’s largest public pension fund erased its losses from the coronavirus pandemic earlier in the year. As Anna Staver of the Columbus Dispatch reports, Rates of return for both the defined benefit and health care funds ended the year above target.

Lobbying Lineup

Here are five groups that lobbied on Senate Bill 33, a new law that toughens penalties for demonstrators who trespass or commit other crimes while protesting at energy pipelines or other “critical infrastructure.” State lobbying forms don’t require people to disclose which side they’re on.

1. FirstEnergy

2. League of Women Voters of Ohio

3. Ohio Poultry Association

4. Ohio Ready Mixed Concrete Association

5. Kent State University


Randall Routt, Ohio Senate Democrats’ policy adviser and communications assistant

Straight from the Source

“We’ve had three Wednesdays in 2021: 1. Insurrection 2. Impeachment 3. Inauguration”

– Former Ohio Democratic Party Chair David Pepper, tweeting Wednesday about the Jan. 6 invasion of the U.S. Capitol by a pro-Trump mob, the subsequent U.S. House vote to impeach Trump a week later, and the inauguration of President Joe Biden the Wednesday after that.

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