Sandusky, Ohio, deems Election Day a paid holiday for city employees

In an effort to show its dedication to diversity, the city of Sandusky, Ohio, will no longer recognize Columbus Day as a paid holiday. Instead, the city will give Election Day off to its over 200 government employees, according to The Washington Post. Eric Wobser, Sandusky’s city manager, hopes this decision will set an example for local private companies. The announcement occurs in the midst of a partisan debate over a bill that would make the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November a national holiday, an attempt to increase voter accessibility.

Campaign Finance, Election Law

FEC announces contribution limits for 2019–2020 elections

Announced February, 8, 2019, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) increased the individual contribution limit for the 2019–2020 election cycle to $2,800 per candidate. The Federal Election Campaign Act requires the FEC to adjust these limits every two years, based on inflation rates. The coordinated party expenditure limits and the lobbyist bundling threshold for 2019 have also been adjusted. All updated contribution limits are outlined in a chart prepared by the FEC.

Campaign Finance

Campaign funds can be used for cybersecurity-related expenses

Recently, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) issued advisory opinion 2018-15, allowing “members of Congress [to] use campaign funds for cybersecurity-related expenses for their personal electronic devices.” This newly-approved opinion permits members, and provides a funding source, to protect personal and private accounts and devices against potential hackers and cyberattacks.  

Campaign Finance

DeWine announces several new cabinet picks

Sworn in on January 14, Ohio's new Governor Mike DeWine recently announced several new appointees to his cabinet agencies. Appointees, who are still pending approval from the Ohio Senate, include:

  • Dorothy Pelanda – Department of Agriculture
  • Randy Gardner – Department of Higher Education
  • Jillian Froment – Department of Insurance
  • Kimberly Hall – Job and Family Services
  • Maureen Corcoran - Medicaid
  • Lori Criss – Mental Health & Addiction Services
  • Jack Marchbanks – Transportation
  • Jeffrey Davis – Developmental Disabilities
  • Stephanie McCloud – Workers Compensation
  • Ryan Gies – Youth Services
  • Ursel McElroy – Aging
  • Deborah Ashenhurst – Veteran Services
  • Laurie Stevenson – Ohio EPA

DeWine also named Andy Wilson as his senior advisor for criminal justice policy.

These individuals join several cabinet directors and senior staff appointed by DeWine in December 2018. An ongoing list of Governor’s Office staff appointees and cabinet agency director appointees is available here

General News

Are government shutdown freebies considered gifts?

During the limited federal government shutdown, many businesses responded by offering discounts and freebies to federal employees to help them cope during the difficult time. Our team often urges caution when government employees are involved with items or services that can be construed as gifts. So, we looked into this to ensure our clients were not inadvertently violating federal ethics guidelines and potentially making a bad situation worse.

Federal employees are normally limited to accepting gifts valued at $20 or less (and the total value of gifts from the same entity cannot exceed $50 in a calendar year). Gifts are broadly defined as anything of value. Here’s the great news: the federal ethical guidelines contain an important exception that discounts offered to all federal employees or to the general public are not considered gifts.

Ethics policies are extremely helpful in both the private and public sectors to keep employees (and their employers) away from compromising ethical situations. We all recognize the importance of the guidelines that detail what not to do. It’s equally important that these policies contain common sense exemptions for real life scenarios. We’d be happy to help create, review or revise your company’s ethics policies, if you need assistance.

General News

Columbus approves new campaign finance contribution limits

On January 14, 2019, Columbus City Council voted to approve new campaign finance contribution limits. Individual contributions are now limited to a total of $12,707.79 per year, the same limit set for State of Ohio officials. The council also amended legislation to require any candidate or group raising $1,000 or more to file campaign finance reports. These city ordinances are scheduled to go into effect March 1.  

Campaign Finance

2018 lame duck summary and 2019 budget and legislative preview

With a new year comes a new General Assembly. Bills that the 132nd General Assembly did not pass will have to be reintroduced if legislators want to pursue those issues in the 133rd General Assembly. The DeWine-Husted administration will have until as late as March 15 to present the administration’s first draft of the FY 2020-21 Operating Budget to the General Assembly. However, we anticipate learning more about the new administration’s priorities in the near future. Read More >>

General News

Campaign finance changes coming to Columbus

On November 28, 2018, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced new campaign finance proposals that would limit individual contributions to $12,707.79. Currently, the City of Columbus does not cap campaign contributions, and if passed, this new amount would mirror the contribution limit currently set for State of Ohio officials. Critics argue that the proposed amount is too high, as compared to limits of $5,000 and $1,000 in Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively. Columbus City Council will vote on these proposed changes at its December 10 meeting. 

Campaign Finance

2018 post-general election update

On Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Ohioans cast ballots in the 2018 general election. For the first time since 2006, five statewide elected offices were up for election without an incumbent running in the 2018 general election. Federal offices, including all Ohio U.S. Representatives seats and one U.S. Senate seat, two Ohio Supreme Court seats, all seats in the Ohio House of Representatives and 17 Ohio Senate seats were on the ballot. For your convenience, we have compiled an overview of the 2018 general election results and details on races of particular interest.

General News

Reporting tips for local ballot issue spending

Much has been written about campaign spending and disclosures – analyzing every tier of government from the federal level to city hall. Now at the close of another election season, it may be helpful to review a potentially overlooked aspect of campaign spending and disclosure: corporate spending in support or opposition of a local ballot measure.

Ohio law permits a corporation to support a ballot issue political action committee (PAC) or levy committee or to spend independently to support or oppose a local ballot measure. Either way, the law requires an itemization of the corporate expenditures.

This is where the reporting can get tricky. Expenditures are often considered direct spending (i.e., a monetary contribution, purchasing yard signs, advertising, consulting fees, etc.). However, the definition of expenditure can also include internal staff time or the use of office resources dedicated to supporting or opposing the ballot issue. Compliant reporting is accomplished when the Ohio Secretary of State’s 30-B-1Form (for contributions to support a PAC or levy committee) or 30-B-2 Form (when the corporation acts independently or there is no established PAC) is filed with the board of elections in the county where the issue is to appear on the ballot.

As always, strong record keeping and organization is the best way to avoid any reporting issues. Additionally, filers may find it easier to report the expenditures as they occur, as opposed to filing only on the prescribed deadlines.

While these considerations will likely be helpful for those supporting or opposing local ballot measures, bear in mind that some charter cities have their own campaign finance restrictions and disclosure requirements in addition to state requirements.

Campaign Finance
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