The Senate Finance Committee approved legislation providing more than $6 billion in spending on various programs and projects on Tuesday night, setting the bill up for a floor vote on Wednesday. The money — most of which comes from federal pandemic relief bills — was added into tax amnesty bill HB45 (RoemerWest) via one omnibus amendment and two stand-alone amendments. The committee also accepted a sub bill before the amendments were added, with Senate Finance Committee Chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) saying it instructs the Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) director to determine if a tax amnesty program needs to be triggered in in 2023. Highlights of the omnibus amendment, AM4298, include the following:
– More than $1.1 billion that Dolan said is “necessary to true up both the Medicaid and the DD line items.”
– $1.75 billion for schools.
The Study Committee on Publicly Funded Child Care and the Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) Program adopted a final report Wednesday recommending further scrutiny of administrative barriers in the child care quality rating system, letting some providers enroll a portion of publicly-funded children without participating in SUTQ, updating funding calculations and taking “urgent action” to get more people into the field. One of the committee co-chairs, Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering), said the child care issue is important to the workforce, not just today but for future generations, given what the data show about how kindergarten readiness or lack of is associated with third grade reading ability, eighth grade math scores, high school graduation and involvement in the juvenile justice system. “We understand the ramifications of child care and the ripple effect it has,” White said. At their final meeting, committee members also discussed then-pending funding supplements and policy changes moving via HB45 (Roemer-West), a tax amnesty bill that became a spending omnibus Tuesday night in the Senate Finance Committee.
The push to overhaul K-12 education governance in Ohio during lame duck session fell apart late into the marathon House and Senate sessions on Wednesday and early Thursday morning. The Senate took SB178 (Reineke), which transfers much authority from the State Board of Education to a new Department of Education and Workforce under the governor’s control, and inserted it via amendment into HB151 (Jones), a teacher mentoring bill that had become the vehicle for policies to ban transgender girls from girls’ school sports. But the House failed to concur with the Senate amendments to HB151, falling a few votes short of the 50 required, with Speaker-elect Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) among conservatives who joined Democrats to oppose concurrence. The House had mounted its own review of SB178 through the week. The sponsor, Sen. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin), stood for more than an hour of questioning Monday from the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee on his plan to restructure state education governance, addressing concerns about whether he’s acting too hastily, whether home schooling families will lose ground and how this new hierarchy would improve performance. The House committee and a several witnesses spoke on SB178 long into the night Tuesday. The meeting was briefly paused after a medical emergency involving Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville). Roughly two hours into the meeting, Lightbody appeared to briefly faint or nearly faint, according to comments from Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) at the time. The audience was asked to exit the committee so emergency medical services could help Lightbody, who was later taken to a hospital. At the end of the hearing, which lasted nearly five hours, Ingram said Lightbody was staying overnight at a hospital for observation and was awake and alert. The committee heard more testimony Wednesday and recessed to consider potential amendments, but ultimately did not reconvene. The transgender sports restriction bill into which SB178 was amended, HB151, was amended in the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee on Wednesday to remove explicit references to the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) and specify that birth records used to verify an athlete’s sex in the case of a dispute would be the record from the time of the dispute, rather than the time of birth.
In addition to changing transgender sports restrictions in HB151 Wednesday, the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee also turned teacher licensure bill HB554 (Lightbody) into an education omnibus with several amendments on K-12 and higher education topics. The committee also amended sexual abuse prevention legislation HB105 (Lipps-Kelly) to include parental opt-outs and prohibit abortion-related organizations from providing materials for the prevention education, but HB105 was instead passed later as an amendment to criminal justice omnibus SB288 (Manning).
After a final round of changes Tuesday, the State Board of Education voted 10-7 with two abstentions to pass the muchdebated resolution opposing the proposed federal Title IX regulations from the Biden administration regarding sex discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Since being introduced by member Brendan Shea this fall, the resolution has generated hours of debate among board members and voluminous public testimony during monthly meetings. The resolution was winnowed down over that time and was further narrowed Tuesday. It no longer has the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) advise local schools that the board views the regulations as unenforceable, and was stripped of language referencing the “objective, scientific fact” of biological sex and stating that “denying the reality of biological sex destroys foundational truths upon which education rests.” However, members turned back a further amendment Tuesday that would have removed a requirement for ODE to send a letter to schools noting ongoing legal challenges to the federal regulations, including by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost.
With lawmakers poised to enact major changes to the job of the state superintendent, the State Board of Education decided Tuesday not to move forward on selecting a search firm to help identify candidates for the role, which has been filled by an interim leader for most of the past year. The Senate had already passed SB178 (Reineke), which would move most duties of the superintendent and State Board of Education to a new Department of Education and Workforce, to be led by a gubernatorial appointee. The board and superintendent would be limited to a subset of their current powers, largely dealing with teacher licensure and conduct cases and school district territory transfers.
The DeWine administration announced final training requirements Monday for K-12 staff approved by school officials to go armed on campus in the event of an active shooter. The Ohio School Safety Center’s (OSSC) Armed School Staff Essential Training (ASSET) curriculum seeks to comply with HB99, sponsored by Rep. Tom Hall (R-Middletown) and more than three dozen members of the House and Senate and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in June. The bill allows district school boards and charter school governing bodies to arm designated staff members who complete OSSC training. At the governor’s direction, ASSET includes 24 hours of training up front and eight hours annually for recertification, “the maximum number of hours permitted by law,” his office said. The curriculum defines required topics, time spent on each, and learning objectives trainees must meet.
Local regulations of tobacco and vaping like the flavored product ban just enacted in Columbus would be wiped out under a state preemption amendment advanced Tuesday in a Senate committee, according to health care and anti-tobacco groups who objected to the change. Ahead of a vote to pass HB513 (Cross-Roemer), legislation related to refunds of excise taxes on tobacco products for bad debts from product sales, the Senate Ways and Means Committee adopted two amendments. One of them, AM3733, preempts local policies, including “setting or imposing standards, requirements, taxes, fees, assessments or charges of any kind,” “lowering or raising an age requirement,” and prohibiting employees 18 or older from selling or handling such products. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, (ACS CAN) Prevention Tobacco Addiction Foundation, Tobacco 21, American Heart Association and American Lung Association all spoke out or submitted written remarks Tuesday night in opposition to the amendment.
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