With supermajorities in both chambers of the Ohio legislature, Gov. John Kasich has a strong, following wind at his back for the second half of his first term in office. Offering an early buffet of bills Ohio Republicans will push for in the coming months, the big topics include a focus on jobs and workforce development, taxes, local government operations and health care.
On Wednesday Ohio House Republicans introduced their first set of bills that if signed into law will accomplish a variety of goals, from improving workforce development efforts and revising school safety laws, to assisting local governments with efficiency measures.
"While these 10 bills are not part of an official House Republican “priorities list,” they reflect some of the bigger issues we will face in the first six months,” said Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) in prepared remarks. “These are the first in a series of many important bills that we will be introducing over the course of this General Assembly as we work to boost workforce development efforts, improve our tax climate, enhance local government operation, improve health care, and create a better quality of life for all Ohioans."
In separate news, House Joint Resolution 1—which authorizes Governor John Kasich to hold his State of the State address in Lima on February 19th—had bipartisan support.
Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder today released the following statement:
"Governor Kasich’s efforts to bring state government to the people demonstrates the openness and accessibility of his administration. After 2012’s successful address at Wells Academy in Steubenville, it was clear that there are great benefits to taking this address on the road and bringing it to communities all over the state.
"During the 130th General Assembly, the Ohio House will be working closely with Governor Kasich and the Senate on the issues that are most important to Ohioans, and the annual State of the State address is a preview of some of our priorities moving forward. I look forward to joining my colleagues in the House in this important occasion and hearing the governor’s views on our state’s progress and how we can move Ohio forward."
Gov. Kasich will run for a second and final term, but so far no candidate of another party has declared their candidacy to oppose him. Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County Executive, has shown every sign that he's ready to jump into the race. Other Democrats like former Congressman Betty Sutton or sitting Congressman Tim Ryan of Niles have been mentioned as possible challengers.
Here are the bills the Ohio House Republican Caucus will work on:
House Bill 1 (Derickson, Romanchuk) – Ohio Means Jobs. This legislation rebrands Ohio’s patchwork of workforce centers, currently referred to as “One-Stops,” as “Ohio Means Jobs _____ County” to ensure consistency, reduce public confusion, and connect these centers directly to OhioMeansJobs. It also requires all workforce investment boards to use OhioMeansJobs as the only job matching tool by July 2013 to streamline job-matching services, reduce duplication, and maximize this increasingly important benefit to Ohioans.
House Bill 2 (Derickson, Brown) – Helping the unemployed get back to work. This bill requires that all applicants for unemployment insurance register with OhioMeansJobs prior to applying for benefits and requires applicants to make direct contact with their local One-Stop (or future OhioMeansJobs office) by the eighth week of unemployment benefits. This will ensure that unemployment insurance applicants are maximizing their job search opportunities and make it easier for the applicant to navigate the many different services that currently exist.
House Bill 3 (Sears, Kunze) – Improving health insurance oversight. In order to protect our competitive marketplace, it is important that we control the regulatory authority over the sales, solicitation and recommendation of health insurance options. This legislation provides for the certification and oversight of health exchange navigators, and adjusts continuing education requirements for insurance agents. It outlines the scope of practice of a navigator, as well as specific requirements for licensure and ethics requirements.
House Bill 4 (Stautberg, Blessing) – Local Government Performance Measure Grant Program. This legislation creates 100 micro-grants to help Ohio’s local governments improve government efficiency, maintain vital services, and save taxpayer dollars in an effort to make Ohio more competitive. These grants will give local entities the tools to efficiently manage functions and services by using performance measurements and benchmarking. The funds will be repurposed from the existing appropriation of $36 million in unused loan dollars from the Local Government Innovation Fund.
House Bill 5 (Grossman, Henne) – Municipal income tax uniformity. This legislation seeks to make Ohio’s municipal income tax system as fair and uniform as possible throughout Ohio’s more than 600 taxing municipalities. Among other provisions, it creates uniform treatment of filing requirement, defines “resident” to eliminate the requirement that someone can be a resident of an Ohio city without being a legal resident of the state of Ohio, and creates a uniform net operating loss carry-forward period of five years.
House Bill 6 (Thompson, Green) – Local government agreed upon procedures. This legislation specifies that local government entities that qualify for an agreed-upon procedures audit must meet defined criteria. An agreed-upon procedures audit is a lower cost method that allows eligible government agencies to save money and time without sacrificing accountability. The Ohio Auditor of State’s office estimates that more than 1,000 government entities may qualify for this kind of audit.
House Bill 7 (Huffman) – Internet sweepstakes. This is a redrafted version of House Bill 605 from the previous General Assembly, taking into account concerns that the Ohio Attorney General and others have raised regarding the need for sweepstakes parlor or sweepstakes internet café regulation. This version tightens some of the definitions and adds the ability for businesses to obtain a waiver from being labeled a sweepstakes terminal device facility for their customer reward programs.
House Bill 8 (Roegner, Kunze) – Working to ensure safer schools. The provisions of this legislation will be drafted based on interested party input during the committee process. It will incorporate research and suggestions brought forth by the public.
House Bill 9 (Stautberg) – Commercial foreclosure updates. This bill adds to and clarifies the powers of a receiver (someone who, in the case of commercial foreclosure, is appointed by the court to serve as a caretaker of the real property) and enables a receiver to sell real property by modifying who can be appointed a receiver and what authorizations they have under the law to handle the property for which they are responsible.
House Bill 10 (C. Hagan) – Fiscal Integrity Act. This legislation increases accountability and penalizes wrong-doing from local fiscal officers. It creates a uniform removal provision and due process for county auditors and treasurers, municipal fiscal officers, and township fiscal officers. It also deals with provisions pertaining to dereliction of duty and local government audits.
Committee hearings on these bills and others recently introduced are expected to commence in the near future. The Speaker looks forward to extensive debate and discussion on these important pieces of legislation throughout the committee process.
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