COLUMBUS — The Ohio House continued work on the biennial budget, lawmakers moved several more bills and Gov. John Kasich announced another billion dollar workers’ compensation rebate, with payments expected by mid-year, pending final approval by the BWC board.
Here are 10 things that happened around the Statehouse this week:
1. Budget Stuff: Finance subcommittees in the Ohio House continued their deliberations on the biennial budget bill, with a floor vote on the two-year spending plan expected in the next few weeks.
House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) told reporters that he expects “some kind of tax cut” in the House version of the budget. He stopped short of providing any details along those lines, though he said Kasich’s severance tax increase on oil and gas produced via fracking wouldn’t make the cut.
2. More Budget Stuff: Amendments were due at the end of the week for the biennial transportation budget, a separate bill with spending for the Ohio Department of Transportation and several other state agencies.
The Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee is expected to complete its work on the legislation in coming days, with a vote likely in the Ohio Senate shortly thereafter.
The bill will then head back to the Ohio House and potentially to a conference committee of the two chambers to hash out any differences, with final passage and enactment by early April.
3. In Session: The Ohio House and Senate were both in session and passed several bills.
Notably, lawmakers finalized their first legislation of the year, with the Senate and House signing off on HB 11, a tax conformity bill to align state code with Internal Revenue Service changes.
Among other provisions, the bill would exempt Olympic and Paralympic medals from taxation, so long as the winners of those honors have adjusted gross incomes of less than $1 million. The legislation also would grant an extension for amended returns filed by residents whose combat or military service-related disability severance payments were improperly subjected to withholding.
HB 11 next heads to Kasich’s desk for his expected signature. It will take effect immediately after his pen leaves the paper, thanks to an emergency clause added by lawmakers.
4. Great lakes: Senators also signed off on SB 2, which contains a number of provisions related to drinking water systems, including regulations affecting the handling of dredged materials from federal navigation channels and additional authority for the head of the Ohio EPA to transfer, revoke or modify water quality certifications.
“It will protect Lake Erie and all of our drinking water sources,” Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay), the primary sponsor of the bill, said prior to the floor vote.
5. Other Bills: Additionally, senators approved SB 57, designating May 17 as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma Awareness Day, drawing attention to brainstem tumors that mostly affect children.
According to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Service Commission, “DIPG symptoms progress rapidly and include headaches, nausea and vomiting, facial weakness, and problems with eye movement, balance and walking, and chewing and swallowing. Currently, there are no effective treatments for DIPG and the survival rate is very low.”
The Ohio House OK’d HB 6, which would prohibit groups that publish mug shots or other criminal record information from requiring fees to remove or correct such information from their websites or in print.
The House also approved HB 80, which would allow school districts to permit groups to use their facilities during summer months to provide meals to needy kids.
6. Drunken and Drive Thrus: Rosenberger was reserving judgment on Rep. Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton) after the lawmaker was found allegedly passed out in a fast-food restaurant drive-thru with an allegedly loaded firearm. (The legislator has a licensed to carry a concealed firearm.)
“Due to present circumstances, I regretfully will be absent from session and all committee hearings in the Ohio House of Representatives for the remainder of the week,” Retherford said in a released statement a couple of days after the incident. “Out of respect for my family, I humbly ask for space and privacy as we move forward on this personal matter.”
Rosenberger was asked by reporters about Retherford following Wednesday’s session.
He offered, “We’re going to let the process play out, see what happens with Wes. In the meantime, truly I’m thinking about his family and himself, and thoughts and prayers are going to him. Look, it’s not conduct becoming of a member of the Ohio House. I think he knows that. People make mistakes… Things happen. He… just unfortunately didn’t make a wise decision this time and got caught on it… I’m not the judge, I’m not the jury, clearly there has to be a process that plays out here. We’re going to let that play out.”
7. Death Penalty Watch: Prosecutors in Cuyahoga County formally asked the Ohio Supreme Court to set an execution date for Romell Broom, who was sentenced to death for the 1984 rape and murder of a 14-year-old Cleveland girl.
He was supposed to be put to death in September 2009 and made the trip to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville for his lethal injection.
But prison officials could not locate suitable veins to administer the execution drugs. Following a prolonged process — Broom was reportedly stuck at least 18 times over two hours — then-Gov. Ted Strickland granted a reprieve, postponing the execution to a later date.
Boom sued on constitutional grounds to block further execution attempts, saying that putting him through the process again amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.
Attorneys for the state countered that Broom had a lawful death sentence, the state followed proper procedures, and the inmate should face execution.
The Supreme Court, in a decision a year ago, sided with prosecutors, paving the way for another execution date.
8. Death Penalty Postscript: The Ohio Supreme Court denied motions to vacate death sentences from a handful of Death Row inmates, who argued that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision required such sentences to be “found by a jury, including a weighing determination,” according to documents. “Accordingly, the death sentence[s] affirmed by this court after it identified errors is unconstitutional.”
Justices disagreed, denying the motions in seven cases.
9. Kasich on Brackets and Swimming: Asked early in the week during a press conference announcing another round of workers’ compensation rebates, Kasich said he hadn’t yet filled out a bracket for the NCAA tournament.
But he said one of his daughters had, with Gonzaga and North Carolina in the Final Four.
“… When you watch these kids play… when you see the athletic ability of these folks, it is just mind boggling,” he said. “I used to be a fairly good basketball player in my day — I’d beat you in Horse today — [but the college players today are] just absolutely amazing.”
One other note on athletics: Kasich said he took up swimming last August.
10. Dad Jokes: Kasich ended his BWC rebate press conference with a zinger: “What is going on with this weather? It’s supposed to get warm. You know April showers bring what? May flowers. And you know what May flowers bring? Pilgrims.”
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.