News reporters often eschew describing the nitty gritty details of “how the sausage gets made” in the Ohio General Assembly. This is the deal-making, wheeling, dealing, midnight squealing – that awful noise Clarice Starling’s lambs make during the slaughter – in the Buckeye State Statehouse.
Of course, lawmakers have an interest in not publicizing the gory deets: these less-than-savory mechanisms are embraced on both sides of the aisle every now and again to suit their purposes when necessary.
Perhaps the messiest of these tools are deployed during the “lame duck session,” which Ohio lawmakers went through this week, where the Ohio Constitution’s “single subject rule,” seems to no longer much apply.
And what do we get from that, friends? Well let’s take a look at the offal (awful?) Ohio Republicans put through the meat grinder this year, and how.
Puppy Mills and Minimum Wage
Don’t bother trying to work out how making bestiality illegal, expediting the process for allowing wireless providers to install equipment on city utility poles, and preventing municipalities from raising the minimum wage meets “single subject” requirements; you’ll tie yourself in knots.
Nevertheless, Ohio’s Republican majority managed it with Senate Bill 331, the “Petland Bill,” which also overrode Grove City’s law blocking “puppy mill” stores from making purchases from large-scale, unlicensed breeders.
According to one legislator, animal welfare advocates supported things such as making cockfighting a felony and rendering bestiality illegal, but after the pro-puppy mill and anti-local control poison pills were added, they had to oppose the legislation.
“It’s terrible. The advocates spent years improving the standards in Ohio to shut down some of the most irresponsible breeders in the industry. There were dogs living in horrifying situations being used just to breed puppies who had serious health problems due to the situations in which they were raised,” the legislator said, pointing to a law passed in recent years that was a real step forward toward stopping these practices. “This bill takes us backward and it’s really frustrating for the advocates.”
Guns, Guns Everywhere
Into the grinder first goes House Bill 48 and out comes from the other end Senate Bill 199, forever changed. The original legislation would’ve cleaned up issues regarding military services members and concealed carry.
“It was an absolutely benign bill with bipartisan support. Then that bill was amended to treat permit holders as a protected class under Ohio anti-discrimination statute, like sex and race and religion, in a state where we don’t have sexual orientation as a protected class,” another legislator explained. “That was hugely problematic.”
The compromise to get that “protected class” language out was to put HB 48 into the bill instead, which expands concealed carry into places like daycares, libraries and college campuses. Open areas of police stations were originally going to be opened up to concealed carry, but representatives of police objected so that was removed. The lesson? Babies in daycare need better lobbyists.
Options for Abortion Bans
Both of Ohio lawmakers’ proposed (and unconstitutional) abortion ban bills – the “heartbeat bill,” and the “20-week” bill – were rolled into other legislation. The “heartbeat bill” was rolled into a proposal to streamline child abuse procedures for mandatory reporter professionals.
“It was a totally bipartisan bill. Everybody was on board to work out some issues to make the reporting more streamlined and effective. And that bill was the one the heartbeat bill was amended into. So it was a painful vote for a lot of people to vote against the child abuse reporting bill because of the heartbeat bill amendment,” another legislator said.
The 20-week ban is similar to Ohio’s current law (24-week ban) but requires a second opinion of a medical professional other than the initial provider as to the viability of the fetus, but the second doctor is not allowed to be professionally affiliated with the first.
Imagine the problem this will create in rural areas – if, say, a woman is hemorrhaging and requires immediate emergency medical attention – to go to one doctor and then need to find a second, unaffiliated doctor.
“It would be an extremely dangerous amount of time for that woman to be bleeding and waiting for someone to determine whether or not the doctor can intervene to save her,” a legislator said. “So while it doesn’t make a dramatic difference in the number of weeks, it has a big problem with regard to women’s health and safety.”
Sunsetting Government Agencies
This one, multiple legislators said, came out of nowhere. Under Senate Bill 329, the departments of health, veterans services, youth services and 22 other cabinet-level agencies must be renewed every four years.
This idea was apparently on nobody’s radar until it arrived suddenly as part of some sort of compromise between the House Speaker and Senate President. Is it a good idea?
“It’s reckless. These are not boards and commissions that were set up to do one little thing. These were agencies that were set up for education, highway construction, for running the corrections system, for managing the needs and rights of disabled individuals,” another legislator said. “To say that, from time to time, we’re just going to start from scratch and ask if we need these things to exist, it’s going to create a level of uncertainty and chaos that is unnecessary and potentially really damaging.”
Welcome to brinksmanship, Ohio style. And that, my friends, is how the sausage is made.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive’s RouteFifty.com, the National Journal’s The Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.