Heading Logo


10 things that happened at the Ohio Statehouse

by MARC KOVAC | CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published: January 6, 2017 10:21 AM

COLUMBUS -- Lawmakers were back in town, Gov. John Kasich had his first press conference of the year, and more than two dozen bills were signed into law during a shortened first work week of the new year.

Here are 10 things that happened over the first four days of the 132nd General Assembly:

1. Back in Town: Ohio's senators and representatives took their official oaths of office and selected their leaders for the new biennial session.

It was mostly ceremony and agreement, with unanimous adoption of resolutions setting up the general assembly and its employees.

"We've got a lot of new members, a lot of new ideas, a lot of energetic people ready to work," House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) told reporters after the Jan. 3 opening session. "And I'm excited to see what the new year brings and the new term brings."

[Article continues below]

2. Priorities: Cutting down on the complexity of the state tax code is near the top of the priority list of new Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina).

"We've got nine income tax brackets," he told reporters. "And a lot of other states have one or two or three. That's something I think a lot of people consistently look at. So even though our overall rate in Ohio has gone down, the complexity, the needless layers of it, hasn't really changed, and I think that's a problem."

Also on the list: eliminating red tape and burdensome regulations "that get in the way of small business and hurt the economy," Obhof said. " What I'd like to see us do is have everybody pick a law that's not working the way that it was supposed to or not working how it was intended or is overly cumbersome or a regulation that's getting in the way of the economy and let's start repealing laws, cutting their scope or cutting their length or their complexity."

3. Dating Violence: Rosenberger said legislation dealing with dating violence would be introduced as HB 1. Comparable legislation moved through the Ohio House last session but stalled in the Ohio Senate.

Among other provisions, that bill would have allowed courts to issue protection orders against perpetrators of dating violence and provide greater access to domestic violence shelters for victims.

[Article continues below]

4. Not Entirely Kumbaya: A couple of lawmakers voted against House Concurrent Resolution 2, "relative to the appointment of a joint committee to attend the inauguration of the Honorable Donald J. Trump."

Up to eight members of the House and Senate will be picked to attend the event later this month in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) was one of the "no" votes on the resolution.

"Each day brings more disturbing news than the last from our president-elect," she said in a released statement. Her "no" vote "was a protest vote against a man who admits to committing sexual assault, defrauding working people and continuing his many conflicts of interest that put America in danger."

5. Speaking of the Inauguration: Kasich told reporters he plans to attend.

He'll be in Washington, D.C., that week anyway for a roundtable discussion on health care reform and Medicaid.

6. Canceled: Both the Ohio House and Senate have already canceled their initial session days of the year -- a not-surprising move, since there's no legislation to speak of and no committee assignments yet.

7. Heartbeat Bill: Kasich used his line-item veto authority to kill the Heartbeat Bill, legislation that would ban abortions within weeks of conception.

Backers say they'll continue to pursue the law changes in the new session.

House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger told reporters his members still support the bill.

"We'll have a conversation with the caucus, but I assume that the majority of the members will probably want to see that bill move again," he said. "And so we'll probably have that bill come up for conversation."

But Kasich told reporters this week that he isn't supportive, noting the bill had no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother.

"You cannot not have those exceptions," he said. "I have been for those exceptions all along."

He added, "As far as I'm concerned, we've had a state that we've been pro-life and I'm pretty satisfied with where we are at this point."

8. Energy Bill: Another bill Kasich vetoed would have pushed back renewable energy and efficiency mandates.

Obhof said supporters of the bill wanted a longer-term, consistent and stable energy plan for the state -- "Whether you're in a traditional energy sector or an emerging one, we want you to be able to invest in Ohio and know that the law isn't going to change radically every two years or every four years."

That said, the Republican leaders of the Ohio House and Senate said lawmakers would continue to work on related legislation.

"There's not a lot of support in the legislature for the mandates as they exist right now," Obhof said. " That doesn't mean that we can't try to find some middle ground approach that is good for everybody What that ultimately looks like, we'll decide over the next couple of months."

Rosenberger added, "I think there will be a longer conversation about our entire energy climate here in the state of Ohio that regards not only renewable energy but other areas. We're going to be open and eager for those conversations and working with the Senate and the administration going forward on what that might look like."

9. Budget: The governor will submit his biennial budget proposal by the end of the month -- the last two-year spending plan of his administration.

He's already made it clear that spending will be tight.

"We're not going to have a big net tax cut," he said, adding later, "We will have some tax reform in there."

Obhof told reporters he expected a "challenging budget -- probably not as challenging as we had in 2011 but the most challenging one we've had since then Revenues have come in for several months below expectations We will tighten our belts if we need to. We plan to govern conservatively, and we would have done that whether things were slowing down fiscally or not. I would expect not to see a lot of growth in the size and scope of government over the next two years."

Obhof said there remains a desire to cut income taxes, but, "if things are tight already, that might restrain our ability to do that."

Rosenberger added, "Tax shifting is something I'm not interested in Clearly if we can find avenues so we can give more money back to the citizens through tax cuts, I'd like to find that avenue and make it happen."

10. The Book: Kasich said he has written a new book that's being reviewed by the publisher.

There some focus on the campaign, the governor said it's bigger in scope, with his thoughts from decades in the political arena.

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


Rate this article

Do you want to leave a comment?   Please Log In or Register to comment.