Today, something unpredictable happened in a House committee: a pro-public education amendment nearly passed.
The House Education committee was scheduled to consider amendments and vote on an education deregulation bill (SB216). That didn’t happen, however, after committee Democrats put forward an amendment that would have prohibited the state from taking over local school districts that score too low on state tests. Under House Bill 70, Youngstown and Lorain local schools have been placed under the control of appointed CEOs with a wide range of latitude to cancel labor contracts, privatize and restructure district operations.
Today’s amendment was offered by Rep Kent Smith, based on standalone legislation he cosponsored with Rep Theresa Fedor. According to Smith, state takoevers “limit democracy” by eliminating local control by elected school boards. Chairman Andrew Brenner, no fan of public education, moved to table (or set aside) the amendment.
That’s when the suprising thing happened. Four Republicans — Reps Butler, Hambly, Hood and Manning joined the five committee Democrats in refusing to table the amendment, meaning the motion failed and the amendment would pass. Brenner then called a recess and after 30 minutes, adjourned the meeting without voting on the amendment.
In the words of Rep Smith:
Chairman Brenner was opposed to the amendment and called for the amendment to be tabled, or set aside, but lost the vote to table 9 to 6 with four GOP representatives joining all five Democrats on the committee to stop state public school takeovers.
Brenner called for a caucus and attempted to rustle up additional GOP votes, but after thirty minutes of unsuccessful efforts he abruptly ended the House Education Committee without allowing a vote on the amendment.
“The irony of today’s actions by Republican Chair Brenner was that the only way he could stop the future loss of representative democracy for countless Ohio communities was to stop representative democracy today in Ohio House Committee Room,” added Smith. “Clearly the chaos, dysfunction and gridlock of partisan politics in the House has spilled over to every facet of work at the Statehouse.”
According to Smith, the move to end committee “violated House rules.” For his part, Brenner told reporters that members needed “more time” to consider the amendment and that the cancellation of session thanks to the impasse over who Republicans would name as the next House speaker “reduced the urgency” to move forward.
If you aren’t following the mess in the House Republican caucus, you should catch up. Today’s hearing on SB216 is another example of how–just like the House shutting down completely over the Speaker vote–that Republicans are so used to total control that when they face dissent from within their ranks, their only recourse is to shut down completely.