You may have read that the Governor signed a new “tourism bill” yesterday. Indeed, Senate Bill 314 includes funds for the state’s office of tourism, which had otherwise been zeroed out in Kasich’s two year budget last June. So, yes, with the passage of SB314, Kasich found a way not to kill the tourism office after all.
But SB314 was anything but a tourism bill. Just 6 of the bill’s 150 pages deal with the new TourismOhio program and its experimental five-year funding plan.
Of course, thanks to holding the bill signing at the Rock and Roll and Football Halls of Fame (yes, two events–perhaps an alibi for the Governor’s absence from the Mitt Romney events happening just down the road?), Ohio’s newspapers bought the “tourism bill” spin, hook, line and sinker. Among today’s headlines:
Kasich signs bill that changes state tourism funding at Rock Hall (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Kasich talks about tourism bill in HOF appearance (Canton Repository)
Since it was unveiled, SB314 has been referred to on Capitol Square as “JobsOhio II.” The bill’s other 144 pages finalize the privatization of the state’s economic development activities, a controversial move that puts billions of taxpayer dollars into the hands of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats not subject to Ohio’s ethics, public records or public meetings laws.
What does Senate Bill 314 actually do?
- Finalizes the privatization of the state’s economic development activities at JobsOhio
- Eliminates oversight of loans and grants issued by the state at the urging of JobsOhio
- Gives the Chief Investment Officer of JobsOhio a vote to approve tax breaks that he, through JobsOhio, proposed
- Eliminates the Minority Business Enterprise Loan program
- Pokes holes in the state’s revolving door laws (that prevent public officials from lobbying their old agencies for a year after leaving) for the benefit of two former Kasich cabinet directors that moved over to JobsOhio
One of the bill’s sponsors, Democrat Capri Cafaro, actually played along, putting out a press release entitled: “Lawmakers Push Efforts to Boost Ohio Tourism” in which she too played up the bill’s small tourism-related provisions, glossing over its gutting of oversight of economic development as “innovative.” Even more baffling was her spinning the elimination of the Minority Business Enterprise Loan program as a positive, saying it was being revamped, which is a really nice way of saying it was eliminated and the Kasich folks gave us some happy talk, promising that the state’s Capital Access Program would totally try to lend money to minority businesses. Really, it will!
We don’t know what’s up with Cafaro. We’ve given up even trying to figure it out. But, unfortunately, every Democrat but one in the Senate and all but five in the House voted for the bill* and they’re all going to try to tell you it’s about tourism and boosting minority businesses.
We thought you should know that’s a load of bull (see below, apparently even Cafaro subconsciously agrees)
* – legislators voting against SB314 (JobsOhio II) were: Senator Skindell, and Representatives Carney, Foley, Bob Hagan, Phillips and Ramos.