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Statehouse Potpourri: PUCO nominees, school standards and taxes

By MARC KOVAC Capital Bureau Chief Published: January 29, 2017 12:00 AM

COLUMBUS -- Eight of 24 people who submitted applications for consideration for two seats on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio will be interviewed for the posts.

The list included five Republicans, two Democrats and one independent, and all but two are from Columbus and the surrounding central Ohio area.

The interviews by PUCO's nominating council were set for Jan. 26. That panel will pick finalists to forward to Gov. John Kasich. The governor will make the final decision on the appointments, subject to the consent of the Ohio Senate.

The interviews are not open to the public, but the rest of the proceedings and the announcement of finalists are and will be streamed online at www.puco.ohio.gov.

You'll recall the political drama surrounding the governor's last pick -- M. Howard Petricoff, a retired attorney and a Democrat who had to leave his PUCO post after it became evident that the Republican-controlled Senate would not sign off on the appointment.

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There are currently no Democrats serving on commission, a point that's drawn criticism from the Statehouse's minority party and prompted legislation that would require both major parties to be represented at PUCO.

Commissioners at the state's utility regulation agency earn a base pay of about $120,000.

Public Comment

The Ohio Department of Education is accepting public comment on an overview of its State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which "provides a framework for the final plan that Ohio will submit in April" to federal officials.

The draft covers academic standards, assessments, accountability and school improvement.

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The federal Every Student Succeeds Act replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. According to documents, "This long-awaited legislation represents a shift from broad federal oversight of primary and secondary education to greater flexibility and decision-making at the state and local levels."

Additional details are online at education.ohio.gov.

Taxes and Voters

There's an interesting case making its way through the Ohio Supreme Court that merits your attention.

It focuses on a renewal levy OK'd by voters in Delaware County in 2015 that provides funding (about $7 million projected in 2017) for a multi-county joint career center, according to documents.

Voters in Delaware County approved the renewal by a margin of 10,644 votes.

And, "Believing its revenue stream to be secure, DACC continued to plan for ongoing operations, to pursue its long-term, ongoing campus consolidation project, and to continue with a major construction project to enhance the career- technical education of students," according to documents.

However, elections officials neglected to place the issue on the ballot in affected precincts in surrounding counties. Meaning 1,026 registered voters did not get to cast ballots on the issue.

School officials say there were enough votes favor of the renewal, regardless of the balloting error. Tax officials, however, say that state law doesn't give them the authority to move forward with collections.

The case is now before the Ohio Supreme Court, which has set a briefing schedule to consider the issues involved and the larger ramifications. Filings will be made over the next couple of weeks.

Stay tuned.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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