Federal Election Commission confirms three new Commissioners; Elects Chair and Vice Chair

Shana M. Broussard, Sean J. Cooksey and Allen Dickerson were sworn in as members of the Federal Election Commission, Friday, December 18, after having been nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate on December 9. On Tuesday, December 22, Broussard was elected by the Commission to serve as Chair, while Dickerson was elected as Vice Chair. The Federal Election Commission now has quorum to conduct business. The Commission lacked quorum for most of 2020. Read the press release.

Election Law, General News

Ohio Ethics Commission issues advisory opinion

On October 2, 2020, the Ohio Ethics Commission issued formal Advisory Opinion No. 2020 – 03, addressing ethics questions about public officials attending ceremonial events. The opinion states that state or local public officials or employees many not solicit, accept or use their position “to secure an invitation to an event of substantial value from any party that is doing or seeking to do business with, interested in matters before, or regulated by his or her public agency.” Officials are also prohibited from accepting compensation (outside of what is allowed by law) for performing official duties or any act in their public capacity.

However, Ohio law does not prohibit a public official or employee from attending a ceremonial event, such as the opening of a new exhibit, ground-breaking or ribbon-cutting, or other similar event, in his or her official capacity where the official or employee is performing a ceremonial or honorary function appropriate to his or her public position. The Commission provides a list of criteria to determine if an event is objectively related to the public official’s or employee’s public position.

The opinion went into effect when it was accepted by the Commission.

Ethics

Ohio Governor DeWine issues three-week statewide curfew

On November 17, 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that the administration is issuing a statewide curfew that takes effect on Thursday, November 19, 2020. Under the curfew, individuals are to be at home from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. The curfew lasts for 21 days. The Governor previously signaled he was considering closing in-person dining at bars and restaurants as daily case counts crept up over 8,000 per day. For a summary of the state-wide and county-specific orders, read the full article. 

General News

2020 general election update

On Tuesday, November 3, 2020, Ohioans, like the rest of the country, cast ballots in the 2020 general election. Many counties in Ohio and around the country reported record-breaking early voter turnout. Approximately 3.4 million Ohioans voted early by mail and in-person, and an estimated 311,519 absentee and provisional ballots remain outstanding. This early vote played a role in the way in which Ohio was called by most media outlets and continues to delay the results of several key Electoral College states.

Here is Bricker & Eckler’s overview of the preliminary 2020 General Election results and details on races of particular interest.

Election Law

Did you receive the wrong absentee ballot? Here’s what you should do

The Franklin County Board of Elections announced that 49,669 voters in the county received the wrong absentee ballots. Election officials are saying that a setting on the machine that stuffs absentee ballots into mailing envelopes was mistakenly changed. The Board of Elections is still investigating the incident, but officials believe the mistake was inadvertent. 

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose directed the Board of Elections to mail correct ballots to voters with a letter explaining the error. Franklin County’s Elections Director Ed Leonard said new ballots will be mailed out within three days. The County Board of Elections also stated a list of affected voters will be posted on their website. For more, read the full article

Election Law

Use of executive session does not create confidentiality

The Ohio Ethics Commission recently issued Advisory Opinion No. 2020-02 outlining prohibitions under the Ohio Ethics Law related to confidential information and executive sessions. The opinion answers whether ORC 102.03(B) prohibits a present or former public official from disclosing information discussed during executive session without appropriate authorization.

The commission found that the use of executive session does not by itself create confidentiality, but that the “application of the Ethics Laws is dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each individual situation.” Matters discussed in executive session that are expressly required to be kept confidential by federal and state laws or regulation would be considered confidential. However, documents that are “public record” and not otherwise exempt under one of the exemptions to the Public Records Act “may still be subject to public disclosure even if the public body appropriately discussed it in executive session.”

Advisory Opinion 2020-02 notes “it would be unreasonable to hold that everything discussed in an executive session is statutorily confidential, absent other provisions of state or federal law expressly making the information confidential.”

Ethics

Governor signs qualified immunity bill for COVID-19 related lawsuits

On September 14, 2020, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 606, a measure that provides widespread qualified immunity to Ohio’s healthcare providers and others, including Ohio businesses, for liability related to COVID-19. The new law will become effective on December 13, 2020. H.B. 606 recognizes the difficult decisions health care providers face as they care for patients during the pandemic, and accounts for the impact of the government’s orders on non-emergency medical procedures. It also recognizes the importance of reopening Ohio’s businesses and the business community’s concerns. For a summary of H.B. 606, read the full article

General News

DeWine announces new county-specific mask requirements, general business and social distancing and industry specific orders extended

At his July 7, 2020, press conference, Governor DeWine announced that the administration is taking additional steps to curb the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases. Utilizing the public health advisory alert system announced the week prior, DeWine said that the Ohio Department of Health will issue a new mask requirement for counties that reach Level 3 or higher. For more, read the full article.

General News

Ohio Governor and General Assembly updates

The Bricker & Eckler government relations team has compiled a comprehensive review of Governor DeWine’s latest announcements, including the surprise resignation of Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton, General Assembly actions, including a marathon floor session by the Ohio House, and a look ahead through the end of June 2020 and into the summer. For more, read the full article.

General News

Ohioans Protecting Ohioans order issued

On May 20, 2020, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton issued a revised Director’s Order that rescinded or amended parts of the “Stay Safe Ohio Order” that has been in effect since April 30. Dr. Acton also signed an “Urgent Health Advisory: Ohioans Protecting Ohioans.”

Governor Mike DeWine, while previewing these actions in his May 19 press conference, stated, “we are now moving from orders to strong recommendations. This is a new phase in our battle against the virus.” For a summary of the impact of collective actions taken by the administration, read the full article

General News
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