House Republicans Lay Out Priorities For 2012

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Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder joined other Republicans House members at a press conference Tuesday.(Photo: Karen Kasler, Ohio Public Radio)
Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder joined other Republicans House members at a press conference Tuesday.(Photo: Karen Kasler, Ohio Public Radio)

The Republicans who run the Ohio House have released their list of priorities for 2012.

Much of those look to build on gains made in 2011.

Looking back at the first year he presided over the Ohio House, Speaker Bill Batchelder
said “the goal was not re-election. The goal was to put Ohio back to work and create jobs for our people.”

As he stood surrounded by many of his 59 member Republican caucus, Batchelder said the economy and jobs are still a top priority in 2012. Also high on the agenda: workforce development – including getting more data from businesses, “one-stop shops” where Ohioans can receive jobless benefits and retraining, and the possible requirement of an internship or work experience to get a college degree.

Also leading the list – workers compensation reform, and a bill that Rep. Mike Dovilla of Berea near Cleveland calls “JobsOhio 2.”

“The JobsOhio 2 bill will continue the process of restructuring state government to make it more efficient and effective in supporting Ohio’s businesses and attracting new enterprises to our great state,” Dovilla said.

JobsOhio is the semi-private job creation boarded created by Gov. John Kasich shortly after taking office.

Rep. Christina Hagan of Alliance says the JobsOhio 2 bill will establish a new focus for the state.

“We’re not here to act as government any more. We’re here to act as a service agency and that is a remarkable thing,” Hagan said.

When pressed for details, Speaker Batchelder said he’d rather Gov. John Kasich release them, and hinted that might happen in the governor’s State of the State speech in the next few weeks.

While the collective bargaining reform law known as Senate Bill 5 was overwhelmingly rejected in November, Majority Floor Leader Matt Huffman of Lima says there is interest in passing parts that did well in polls, such as requiring unionized public employees to pay more for their health care or their retirement.

“Those things need to get addressed at some point. I think that they can’t get addressed unless we have local jurisdictions – of which there are, I think, 2200, including school districts and villages, counties and cities – stepping forward and saying, ‘we want this particular proposal to be adopted’,” Huffman said.

Trying to pass any part of the soundly rejected Senate Bill 5 would be a risky move, says Democratic leader Armond Budish of Beachwood in suburban Cleveland.

“They chose to do an extreme, radical overreach that simply attacks working people, and if they come back with another attack on working people, we’ll respond the same – we’ll fight like hell against it.”

Budish blasted Republicans for their efforts at job creation and specifically for JobsOhio, which he says has serious constitutional issues that his caucus has tried to fight in court.

“They took away accountability for taxpayer dollars, they took away the ethics rules for taxpayers dollars with JobsOhio 1. They haven’t made it clear what they’re going to do.”

And Budish says his 40-member caucus will be releasing its own priorities in the next week or so.

“Our list will do what Ohioans are looking for, which is protect middle class Ohioans, protect good jobs.”

There was no mention of so-called social and moral legislation, such as bills having to do with abortion. But a widely-discussed ban on dangerous exotic animals is expected this year, though Senate President Tom Niehaus has raised concerns about its constitutionality.

There are also plans for legislation on casinos, as critics have complained about administrative delays, and a measure to finalize the Great Lakes Compact. The compact was the one piece of legislation Gov. John Kasich vetoed last year.

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