COLUMBUS — There were more rumblings about the coming state budget, lawmakers made a brief appearance in their respective Statehouse chambers and another statewide office-holder made his 2018 election intentions known.
Things are getting busy again in capital city, as Gov. John Kasich and the state legislature gear up for biennial budget deliberations and potential statewide candidates begin jockeying for position.
Here are 10 things that happened around the Statehouse last week:
1. Following the Rules: The Ohio House and Senate gathered for their second floor sessions of the year, adopting the rules that will guide their work over the next two years and a code of ethics. There were few changes to either document, which are adopted at the start of each general assembly.
The biggest was a move by the Ohio Senate to clarify the timing of floor amendments.
Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said the rules language was edited to require amendments to be filed 90 minutes before the scheduled start time of each session, not 90 minutes before the actual start time.
That was an issue during last year’s lame duck session, when Senate Republicans added the Heartbeat Bill language to separate legislation via an amendment that was brought to light less than 90 minutes before the scheduled start time of the chamber.
The rules also allow senators to suspend that rule with a three-fifths vote, rather than a majority one as outlined under the previous rules.
2. Speaking of the Heartbeat Bill: While Ohio lawmakers continue to debate the merits of legislation that would ban abortion within weeks of conception, Republican congressmen introduced comparable law changes at the federal level.
Janet Porter, president of Faith2Action, the group behind the Heartbeat Bill, was on hand for a press conference Washington, D.C., where the legislation was announced.
“It’s time we stop discriminating against the youngest members of the human family — babies whose heartbeats can be heard,” she said in a released statement. “The inauguration of President Trump has given us an open door and I intend to run through it!”
3. PUCO Update: The nominating committee of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio recommended five candidates for consideration by Gov. John Kasich for two seats on the panel.
Following interviews with applicants, Daniel Conway, Lawrence Friedeman, J. Edward Hess and Raymond Lawton were recommended for one of the seats.
The three individuals who aren’t picked for the first seat, plus Gregory Williams, are the recommendations for the second seat.
Conway, Hess and Williams are Republicans, while Friedeman and Lawton are Democrats.
Friedeman is from Waterville in Lucas County, while the other four are from the Columbus area.
4. Committee Hearings: Lawmakers will get down to business this week, with the first hearing of the Ohio House’s Finance Committee scheduled for Wednesday at 1 p.m.
You can watch the proceedings on the Ohio Channel (online at OhioChannel.org). Testimony on the biennial budget will be given by the state budget director and the Legislative Service Commission.
5. Teachers Lounges: Remember that time, a couple of years ago, when Kasich told a New Hampshire audience that he would ban teachers lounges, drawing the wrath of teachers and others in the process?
The statement came up this week during the governor’s presentation of innovation awards to seven schools. The governor attempted to more fully explain what he meant.
“I said if I were king, I would abolish all the teachers lounges and everybody went crazy,” Kasich said. “But they didn’t understand all that I was saying… I think sometimes teachers feel really unappreciated and beaten down. And sometimes they gather together and they get fed information about how disliked they are. They’re not disliked — teachers are loved. I mean, who doesn’t love their teacher… What I was trying to say is we need to have positive information fed into the teachers, not negative, and sometimes there’s a systemic way that happens, it comes from political sources, to get them depressed, and I don’t like that.”
6. 2018 Election: As expected, Republican state Auditor Dave Yost made official his intentions to run for attorney general in 2018.
He joined Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel among current statewide office-holders who have launched their campaigns for the next even-year general election.
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said earlier in the month that he would make an announcement about his 2018 plans in the late winter or early spring.
He, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Attorney General Mike DeWine are among the Republicans rumored to be considering gubernatorial runs.
“I’m not sure when we’ll make the announcement,” DeWine told reporters last week. “There will be an announcement coming.”
Another potential candidate for governor, Republican Congressman Jim Renacci, was the target of Ohio Democrats last week after he “spent $34,000 out of a federal account on a statewide TV advertising campaign,” according to a released from the Ohio Democratic Party.
“While Rep. Renacci tries to boost his name recognition in media markets across the state, he still has not told the FEC what office he’s actually running for,” party spokesman Jake Strassberger said in a released statement. “Now that he’s spent $34,000 to advertise across Ohio, it’s time to come clean to the FEC and Ohio voters which office he’s seeking.”
7. DeWine on Sessions: DeWine reiterated his support for Jeff Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama and President Donald Trump’s pick to become the next attorney general of the country.
DeWine said he served with Sessions on the judiciary committee for a decade while he was in Congress.
“I’ve already reached out to him, and he and I have had discussions about, once he is confirmed, what he could do to be of assistance to us in Ohio in two very specific areas,” DeWine said. “One is violent repeat offenders who are tearing apart our cities and who are found in possession of a gun. He has told us that he will prioritize those cases… The second think, I can’t really talk much about… but it has to do with how we track people coming out of Mexico who have heroin and how we do a better job in catching those individuals once they enter the state of Ohio.”
8. Picture: Lawmakers gathered in the Statehouse Atrium to honor former Senate President and current state Rep. Keith Faber (R-Celina), with the unveiling of his official senate president portrait. The painting was done by artist Leslie Adams and will hang in the Ohio Senate Office Building.
9. Constitutional Modernization: The head of the panel that has been reviewing Ohio’s constitution is leaving that post. Steven Hollon was named last week as the president and chief executive officer of Ohio United Way.
10. Two Other Notes on the Governor: Kasich ordered flags to lowered to half staff in memory of Cleveland Police Officer David Fahey, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident on Interstate 90 this week.
Kasich also took a quick trip to Washington, where he participated on a panel discussion concerning “the future of the relationship between the United States, the Netherlands and Europe.”
The event took place at the Embassy of the Netherlands.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.