On April 17, the race begins.  The General Assembly will have only 17 days on which to adopt a variety of pieces of legislation that are projected to have a massive effect on the future of Ohioans.  This year’s slate of changes includes an unprecedented budget revision bill that includes significant revisions to all the various layers of last year’s HB153, two bills introduced to modify JobsOhio, concurrent bills legislating “The Cleveland Plan” with SB5 components, and a separate, extensive education bill modifying HB153 items while also introducing new ideas from the Kasich Administration.

17 days

House Bill 487:

First up is John Kasich’s mid-biennial review bill, a 2,771 page document that, according to the Governor, is intended to “further efforts to recreate a jobs-friendly climate in Ohio.”  Summarizing all 2,771 pages in a single paragraph is impossible, even for Kasich who details his ideas on the state website.  You’ll need to remember to ignore his “tax cut” proposal that including oil drilling as the House stripped that out before the original bill was completely off the printer.  HB487 is nearly as large as last year’s budget (3,490 pages) that was introduced on March 15 and finally delivered to the Governor on June 30 after 39 work days through two committees in the Ohio House and Senate.  So in spite of the fact that the Ohio legislature was fully expecting the budget bill last year, it still took them twice as many days as they have allotted on their calendar for the remainder of the current session.

Representative Ron Amstutz recognizes this dilemma and is planning on divvying up the work among various committees (allowing them to adopt the various components in rapid fashion with little to no input from stakeholders).  This was detailed in the news this past week.

When they return from break on April 17, House Republicans plan to take the wide-ranging, 2,771-page package of policy changes and split it into a number of separate bills — 11 has been mentioned but 10 was the most recent figure.

Amstutz, one of the state’s longest-serving lawmakers, has raised concerns about whether the wide-ranging nature of Kasich’s proposal violates the state constitutional requirement that a bill stick to a single subject. There also were questions about whether some parts of the bill would need more hearings and debate than others. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/6/12)

Ironically enough, House Bill 153 had its constitutionality questioned for its lack of focus on a single subject, but Amstutz had no problem with that last year.  This year, when time is tight, he’ll use that very argument to get this legislation on the fast track so he can get out of Columbus and spend the summer on his re-election campaign.  And by cutting up this bill among 10-11 committees they can consider the pieces concurrently, reducing the ability of Ohioans to follow the progress and communicate their concerns to their elected officials.  They don’t care about the stakeholders, they just want to move these changes through without have to deal with us inconvenient citizens and our opinions.

17 days

House Bill 489 & Senate Bill 314:

These identical, 228-page bills modifying Governor Kasich’s JobsOhio department have been introduced concurrently in order to expedite their approval.  By passing them through the House and Senate at the same time it serves to cut approval time in half by allowing the final two versions (if amended at all) to be combined by a joint committee instead of having to run completely through one body and then the next. As we discussed above, running these through two committees at the same time also restricts the time frame during which constituents can contact their legislators and provide public testimony to the committees (full-time jobs anyone?).  Among the various complexities of these bills, we identified and posted about a provision that would create a massive loophole for the Kasich Administration to exploit, and subsequently ignore, Ohio Public Records laws.  Kasich has been often criticized for avoiding any semblance of transparency in his actions and this legislation seeks to further legitimize his secretive practices.

17 days

Senate Bill 316:

And then we have 521 pages worth of education “reform” legislation from the mind of John Kasich.  We posted a detailed look at this legislation when it was first unveiled a couple of weeks ago (and a variety of its components).  The Senate has been on their Spring Break since that time so nothing about it has changed.  In addition to modifying some of the items adopted by HB153 last year (teacher retesting, school ranking system, and teacher evaluations–bye-bye collective bargaining), Kasich has introduced some new components including a poorly informed 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee and a new letter-grade system for schools and districts that he has claimed is designed to simplify understanding of how schools are performing.

Senate Bill 316 is an extremely significant piece of legislation for public school educators and parents alike.  And with the House and Senate on vacation through next week (when many teachers would be on their own Spring Breaks and available to lobby in Columbus) then scheduled to have this legislation passed as they dismiss for the summer before May 24th (while schools are still in session), they have effectively eliminated the prospect that professional educators will have their voices heard within the Statehouse walls regarding this bill.

17 days

Senate Bill 325 & House Bill 506

“The Cleveland Plan” takes form as legislation as two Democrats join with two Republicans to introduce Mayor Frank Jackson’s unresearched and arrogant plan to gain more authority over the educational landscape in Cleveland.  We just posted about Senator Nina Turner’s co-sponsorship of this bill yesterday and social media is abuzz with disappointment over her support of SB5-style provisions that will dismantle collective bargaining in the Cleveland Schools, opening the door for the legislation to be expanded across the state.  And while Turner is on record as hoping that the “fresh start” provision of the bill that eliminates collective bargaining is only a placeholder until replacement language can be worked out, the rushed timeline of the House and Senate paired with GOP domination gives us no reason to think that any such modification is forthcoming.

And just as we described earlier, these two bills were introduced concurrently in order to hasten their passage and minimize public input (i.e., teachers).

17 days

Does anyone think the legislature expects to listen to public testimony, debate the legislation in committees, craft thoughtful amendments, introduce the modified bills, and obtain input from constituents before taking these major reform bills to the chambers for passage?

It’s probably important that we also point out that they only have 17 days of work before leaving for summer break because the members of the House have to go home to begin their campaigns for re-election in November.  And that’s certainly more important than spending time listening to informed constituents’ input regarding these life-altering bills.

You’ve only got 17 days.  Get in touch.

Click here for contact information for members of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Click here for contact information for members of the Ohio Senate.

Below is the legislative calendar for the General Assembly: