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Calfee NOW Episode 7 With Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted

On Episode 7 of Calfee NOW, Leah Pappas Porner, Chair, and Josh Sanders, Vice Chair of Calfee's Government Relations and Legislation practice group spoke with Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted

Topics discussed included:

  • What the Lieutenant Governor hopes to see accomplished by the lame duck session of the Ohio General Assembly 
  • The Lieutenant Governor's policy priorities heading into 2021
  • Planning for Ohio's 2021 budget
  • Keeping the attention and focus on accessible broadband

Calfee NOW Episode 12 With Ohio Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted

Watch the full episode. 



Video Transcript

Leah Pappas Porner:

Welcome to our Calfee Now series with our special guest today, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted. Calfee is very excited to have you here today, Lieutenant Governor, and I am joined by my great business partner, Josh Sanders today. We're in our government relations practice group and we get the opportunity to work on many state government issues. Lieutenant Governor, we just want to say thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today.

Jon Husted:

Oh, thanks. Glad to be with you.

Leah Pappas Porner:

Thank you. So I'm going to kick it off with a question and something about what's happening around the state houses, the lame duck session with the Ohio General Assembly. We're in our final weeks of the lame duck. And just curious, are there any issues that you and/or Governor DeWine are interested in seeing concluded? Something you're following that maybe you could share with our listeners?

Jon Husted:

Well, as you know, in any lame duck session, it's as much about what you don't want to see happen as it is in what you want to accomplish. And so we're very engaged in those conversations. The health issues are always front and center topical, but there are a lot of other important things as well. One of the things I know that the governor would really like to do and that I would love to see happen is to get some elements of the Strong Ohio plan passed that include improving the background check system so we make sure that people who are not legally allowed to own guns don't slip through the cracks and get access to them. We want to protect the law-abiding citizens, but keep guns out of the hands of criminals. There's some tougher penalties in there, and a way that we can improve the technology which our InnovateOhio team has been working on that would be helpful.

Jon Husted:

Additionally, House Bill 13 that would give us some resources to help with broadband. COVID has exposed even more so the digital divide that exists between those who have access to high-speed internet and those who don't. We have some places in some cities that are becoming 5G. Yet, a million-plus people in Ohio don't have access to or can't afford high-speed internet. If we're going to allow them to participate in the modern healthcare system, the modern economy, and the modern education system, we have to close that gap. House Bill 13 would help us do that.

Jon Husted:

And then if things go well with the General Assembly and the relationships on all issues go in the right direction, perhaps a capitol bill can be accomplished that I know that the exiting Senate president wants to have. As you know, the legislative dynamics of leaders leaving, new leaders coming in, leaders to be named later in the Ohio House are all dynamics that affect this. Those are the things that we hope to work with them on.

Leah Pappas Porner:

The fun of a lame duck, right?

Jon Husted:

Exactly.

Josh Sanders:

Well, I'm going to jump ahead to next year. We obviously know that COVID-19 still going to be around and will continue to be a priority in the next year. But aside from addressing the short-term pandemic related issues, what are some of your policy priorities going into 2021?

Jon Husted:

Well, overriding has to be economic recovery and educational recovery. Those are the issues that will be critical for Ohio. How do we make sure that kids are getting a full year's worth of learning, even though they've been in school, out of school, hybrid, online? What can we do over the summer to help those kids get prepared so that they start the next school year where they should be? I think those are huge issues as we've seen drop-offs in K through 12 credential earning, community college enrollment. This is going to be a huge issue in 2021.

Jon Husted:

Also, which speaks to the economic recovery, how do we get people back to work? What will work look like? All of those things are going to be essential elements of what we do in state government.

Jon Husted:

And then the budget, as you know, it's a budget year which is always a big deal. It's going to be the blueprint for the last two years of our administration. We want to see investments in these strategic areas that are important. There'll be huge pressures created by higher Medicaid enrollments that will make it difficult. We expect in the coming months that the number of cases that we have and the number of hospitalizations is going to put a drag on the economy which will hurt revenue. And so we hope that our theme for the budget will be recovery and stability; recovery on the economic and education front and stability from the standpoint of making sure that people can at least maintain the level of funding that they have right now.

Josh Sanders:

Great. Just going further maybe on that budget issue, we've obviously seen what COVID has done and the impact it's had on the healthcare system, as you mentioned, and the state's larger economy. I think a lot, due to your and the governor's actions, Ohio actually had a pretty strong summer on the economic front. What do you anticipate? Do you see those shortfalls going into the future? And then how does that impact your budget proposals for next year?

Jon Husted:

Yeah. This is such a moving target. We've tried to be conservative. Again, I'll use this word stability and recovery, those two words. Because we need to make the investments that allow for the recovery so we can not overwhelm our Medicaid system, that we can put people to work. That we get the recovery going because that helped people in their personal lives, and it also helps government revenues that we have that we need to be able to do these things. And so those are the overriding themes.

Jon Husted:

We expect that to use the rainy day fund, to some extent, as anybody who follows budgeting knows, that any time you spend the rainy day fund that is on recurring expenses, you set yourself up for a potential budget cliff once those funds run out. And so we're trying to be strategic about that. Use the money perhaps for some one-time expenditures. Use it to sustain that stability and predictability for budgeting, and not create two years out a cliff that there isn't adequate revenue to fund. But it's the challenge of investing where you need to get the recovery educationally and economically without creating a budget cliff at the end. Anybody who's spent any time on state budgeting knows that's the challenge, and we're squarely prepared to address it.

Josh Sanders:

Absolutely. Well, I'm glad you mentioned it being a moving target because kind of how I've described you Governor DeWine has been very nimble with dealing with COVID, its impact, and really keeping Ohio's economy pretty stable, especially when we look across the country. Have you seen new innovations that have been used here in Ohio maybe to address the short-term or because of COVID that you see as having a long-term impact going forward?

Jon Husted:

Well, look. In new innovations, first of all, America developed a vaccine in record time. You see things coming along like quantum computing and other things like that that will allow us to solve problems in a fraction of the time that we used to spend on them. AI, other kinds of technologies that can be put to very productive use. We're seeing new investments from Waymo and other companies who are going to do automated driving efforts in our state. Battery technologies. You've seen a lot of these things emerge.

Jon Husted:

We're trying to use technology inside state government. When this is all done within a couple of years, you're going to see a BMV where most everything that you do, you can do from a distance point of view. We're really trying to eliminate the need to be in person for things, use the technology to do that. But then when you run into the wall is, "Yes, that's great. But there are a lot of people who don't have access to it." And so that's the other part of government. How do you help those people who need the help so that we don't leave them behind?

Jon Husted:

I'm very concerned that technology and COVID could create the pressures educationally and economically that create a divide that we have not seen before that will last for years. We have to really focus on trying to prevent that from happening and recovering the best we can from the lost educational and economic opportunities that people, particularly in the middle and low part of our educational and economic spectrum, are facing.

Leah Pappas Porner:

That really dovetails in a question that I'd like to ask you, Lieutenant Governor. I know how much you and your team have championed InnovateOhio and some of the cool things that your group has really done. I think about, just as you spoke earlier, about the investment and attention on the broadband conversation. Obviously, your example about the BMV, about how government is using technology. And then also, just your interest in how colleges and universities develop technologies.

Leah Pappas Porner:

So COVID has given us a front-row seat on some of these, but how do you keep that momentum going? Because we're going to get beyond COVID, right? How do you keep that attention going and that investment going? How do you motivate those troops to keep going in that regard?

Jon Husted:

Well, we've got a great board at InnovateOhio. I won't go through them all, but go to InnovateOhio, you can look at our board, and you can see just what a tremendous wealth of talent that they are. Two of the biggest startup companies in Ohio history are on the board. We've got venture capitalists. We've got all kinds of people and they are on this. We're constantly trying to generate ideas and thinking about this. Look, the Ohio IP promise where we put together all 14 universities and two privates, UD and Case, to standardize the way that they commercialize IP. We're seeing success with that, not just because of the IP promise, but it's all about creating that culture of innovation and awareness. That the less friction you have, the more innovation you have.

Jon Husted:

We have to do things to try to attract more capital. One of the things that I'm quietly working on, and maybe not so quietly working on, is to eliminate capital gains taxes on venture funds that establish themselves in Ohio. Look, we did a billion dollars in Third Frontier funding to try to kickstart this and we did okay, but we can attract a billion dollars in venture capital just by creating the right tax environment for it to come to Ohio as it's fleeing places like California and New York because of their egregious and punishing tax policy. If we do this in Ohio, I think we can fuel the fire of taking the innovation, developing the talent, attracting the capital, and just keeping this thing moving. And we're on that.

Leah Pappas Porner:

That's awesome. So, final question. Can you believe you are going to be Lieutenant Governor, that you're into your third year when we started [crosstalk 00:12:06]

Jon Husted:

It seems a lot longer, Leah.

Leah Pappas Porner:

I bet. Governor DeWine would say the same thing if he were on with us, right?

Jon Husted:

Absolutely.

Leah Pappas Porner:

You and the governor have really focused on the pandemic and have really leaned in. But as you look to the new year, the next General Assembly, your budget, if you are dreaming about anything you could work on, some big issues that the Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted wants to tackle, what are those things?

Jon Husted:

Yeah. Look, it's on using technology to innovate government, it's going to be access to broadband for the people that don't have it, and it's going to be talent development. And I already mentioned the capital piece before. Let's just go through them quickly. We have acquired an AI tool called Ray Explorer, and we are going through the entire revised and administrative code to do a huge regulatory reform. I think we're going to have some real success stories to show that are going to save millions of dollars and hours of wasted time and energy that we are going to make it easier to do so in Ohio. It's not going to be one issue that will be a home run. It's going to be a thousand little issues that'll be a home run that we're going to do with this. And so you're going to see us really push on that, or I will really push on that.

Jon Husted:

Continuing to do tech credit and other like programs in our high schools and with our employers where we're up-skilling people and giving them industry-recognized credentials in in-demand areas. That's so essential. For your college degree is great. But climbing the stairs towards that's probably even a better way to do it for most people because you get an industry credential, you earn a college credit, you just keep climbing the mountain, make your skills more relevant. That's what employers want. That's where we can help people get an education without having to run up big student loans. We have to move our education system in that direction. I'll be spending a lot of time on that.

Jon Husted:

And then I mentioned broadband. We're going to have some cool things that we're going to be announcing soon about how we're taking state assets and the latest and greatest technology and seeing if we can leapfrog the traditional ways of how people are thinking about this. I don't know if it's going to work, but we are thinking big, we are thinking expansive, and we are going to be throwing some Hail Mary passes here that are well-designed and orchestrated, that have a good chance of being completed. So you're going to see me working on those things in 2021.

Leah Pappas Porner:

That's great. Well, thank you for joining us today, and just thank you for what you and the governor are doing for our state. I want to put a little toot in there for Mrs. Husted and Mrs. DeWine as well because I know they both are leaning in and helping you guys in every effort towards our good health in this state and our good economy. So Josh and I and the Calfee Firm just want to say thanks for spending the time with us today.

Josh Sanders:

Yes, thank you very much.

Jon Husted:

Well, you're welcome. Thank you for the words of encouragement. Send them in along Governor DeWine. He's got a tough job and he hears from people who don't like how he does his job. Every once in a while, if you get a chance to tell him that you appreciate what he's doing, I know that that's helpful. And also to our staff. Our staff has been put through more than anybody could expect. I know a lot of you know them. Send them words of encouragement because they've been burning the candle from both ends. So, thank you.

Leah Pappas Porner:

Will do and thank you. Merry Christmas and happy holidays. Happy New Year. I'm sure we'll see you around the statehouse. Thanks for the time today.

Jon Husted:

Yeah, absolutely. I have a great prediction for this year that next year will be better.

Leah Pappas Porner:

Wonderful, wonderful.

Josh Sanders:

Absolutely. Thank you.

Jon Husted:

Thanks.

Calfee Connections blogs, vlogs and other educational content are intended to inform and educate readers about legal developments and are not intended as legal advice for any specific individual or specific situation. Please consult with your attorney regarding any legal questions you may have. With regard to all content including case studies or descriptions, past outcomes do not predict future results. The opinions expressed may not necessarily reflect the view points of all attorneys and professionals of Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP or its subsidiary. Updates related to all COVID-19 government assistance programs are provided with the most current information made available to Calfee at the time of publication. Clarifications and further guidance are being disseminated from government authorities on an ongoing basis. All information should be reaffirmed prior to the submission of any application and/or program participation.

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