Senator Shannon Jones (R) was the sole sponsor for Senate Bill 5 when it was introduced to Ohio on February 1, 2011. Introducing a bill as the sole sponsor is nothing unusual, as most bills start out that way. Through the process of winding their way in and out of committees and floor votes in both the House and Senate, bills typically pick up a litany of co-sponsors along the way, mostly from supportive caucus members and many who have had little or nothing to do with the creation of the legislation.
A recent example that illustrates this practice can be found in the May 24, 2011, Ohio Senate Journal. On Page 448-449, we can see where Rep. William P. Coley, II was approved to replace Senator Gary Cates and was sworn in as Senator to represent Ohio’s 4th district.
Less than an hour and a half later, Senator Coley added his name as a co-sponsor to Senate Bill 148, legislation that he did not comment on during debate. Nor would now-Senator Coley have met with any of his new constituents to determine their thoughts on this bill that makes significant changes to Election Law.
One might presume that Senator Coley simply wanted his name on the bill to demonstrate his support and to begin to earn some credit among his fellow Republican Senators, a reasonable assumption given past precedent.
Scan through the House and Senate journals over the years and you will find this process of adding on names as co-sponsors to be a very common practice. A bill is passed on the floor in either the House or the Senate and the title is amended to include the names of additional co-sponsors. This process takes about 30 seconds and is rarely, if ever, contested by the bill’s sponsor. In many instances, members of the committee that heard the bill and/or offered amendments are chief among those requesting to be added. For example, when the most recent budget bill, HB 153, passed a Senate Floor vote, fifteen Republican Senators were added as co-sponsors: “Add the names: ‘Bacon, Beagle, Coley, Daniels, Faber, Gillmor, Hite, Jones, LaRose, Lehner, Manning, Niehaus, Schaffer, Wagoner, Widener.'”
And even controversial bills such as SB 72 about “Post-Viability Abortions and Abortion Reporting Requirements” don’t scare away legislators, still drawing new co-sponsors upon passage on the Senate Floor: “Add the names: ‘Jones, Manning, Niehaus, Obhof, Widener.'”
It is such a routine occurrence that in the last four years, 478 out of 479 bills have been passed out of the General Assembly (126th, 127th, 128th, 129th) with multiple sponsors and co-sponsors. Since January, 2005, only ONE bill has reached the Governor’s desk with a lone sponsor listed on the legislation. ONE bill that no other legislator in either the House or the Senate would add their name to as co-sponsor, even upon its successful passage.
- Twenty-one Senators are listed on sponsors & co-sponsors as on a controversial abortion bill (SB72).
- Fifteen Senators added their names as co-sponsors on a budget bill that was amended by their committee to include even more controversial language about abortions.
And yet none of Ohio’s other 32 Senators and not a single one of Ohio’s 99 members of the House of Representatives wanted their name associated with Senate Bill 5 in the end. Not a single one of the 17 Senators or 53 Representatives who voted in favor of the bill wanted us to see their names in print the front of that legislation alongside Senator Shannon Jones.
I would love to hear the answers of the 16 Senators who voted in favor of the bill when Jones asked them why they didn’t add their names as sponsors. How do you think Kevin Bacon and Keith Faber, the Chair and Vice Chair of the Insurance, Labor, and Commerce that passed it, responded? Bacon’s not shy about co-sponsoring bills, already listed as a co-sponsor for 57 this year. As for Faber, he has 36 bills where he is credited as a co-sponsor. What about the other Republicans on the committee? Bill Beagle – 49 co-sponsorships; Cliff Hite – 50 co-sponsorships; Jim Hughes (opposed SB5) – 44 co-sponsorships; Kris Jordan – 31 co-sponsorships; & Tim Schaffer – 56 co-sponsorships.
Minus Hughes, that’s 323 co-sponsorships on legislation this year, and not a single one wanted their name etched in history alongside Shannon Jones on Senate Bill 5.
Quotes in the paper by President Niehaus, Speaker Batchelder, and the other various legislators who’ve had their say are irrelevant when they become exposed to the reality that exists surrounding this legislation. They had the chance to stand beside their votes and put their names on this bill and they specifically opted against it, revealing their understanding of the deadly political nature of this legislation. In the end, they knew the truth.
And so, Shannon Jones stands alone.