Ohio is celebrating its 212th birthday with special events at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
Some Lawmakers Lament Policy In Budget
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The newborn state budget is just a few days old, but it already has plenty of critics â€“ including some of the lawmakers who voted on it.
At least one complaint has nothing to do with spending.
The budget debate brought criticism from some lawmakers who surprisingly didnâ€™t want to gripe about spending, but something else. That included Republican Rep. Terry Boose of Norwalk.
â€œWe didnâ€™t really vet the numbers as hard and as long as we should have. And why? Because we were doing policy,” Boose says.
Democratic Sen. Tom Sawyer of Akron agreed, saying heâ€™s concerned that the budget is being transformed from a spending plan “into a massive bill grounded in what are primarily policy changes â€“ a close to 5,500 page budget, nearly 5,000 pages of which are policy changes.â€
And even Republican Senate President Keith Faber said that he didnâ€™t like some of the policy in the budget.
â€œThere are provisions in this budget if stand-alone bills came up on them, I would vote against them,” Faber says.
Itâ€™s not unusual for policy provisions that are not related to spending to be tucked into budgets, but some critics are saying this one has more than the usual share. There was the exemption of spider monkeys in the exotic animals law and permission for chiropractors to clear student athletes to return to play after concussions â€“ those were vetoed by Gov. John Kasich.
The budget allows for a vote on sin taxes in Cuyahoga County, and requires a study on facial recognition software to be used by casinos. It includes parts of the bill known as Nitroâ€™s Law, to provide serious penalties for animal cruelty in some cases.
And of course, there are several provisions related to abortion, including one that requires a doctor to notify a woman in writing of the presence of a fetal heartbeat before an abortion is performed.
That last item is reminiscent of the so-called Heartbeat Bill, which died in the Senate last year, and Nitroâ€™s Law was stalled in the legislative process as well.
â€œSometimes these things get slipped in at the last minute and then the individual member is forced to, without really looking very carefully at all â€“ you know, the budgetâ€™s a huge bill â€“ without looking very carefully at everything, the individual member is forced to kind of gulp and say, â€˜well, you know, ok, I donâ€™t like this particularly, but Iâ€™m going to go ahead and vote for the omnibus budget bill,’” says Paul Beck, a professor of political science at Ohio State University.
Greg Lawson of the conservative think-tank the Buckeye Institute puts it this way.
â€œBudgets become Christmas trees. Thereâ€™s a lot of issues out there that people want to see move forward â€“ this provides the opportunity to be able to do it,” Lawson says.
But critics do have a way to fight back against the parts that are policy-only and not related to spending, says Ohio State law professor Dan Tokaji.
â€œIf the legislature includes in the bill other provisions that make permanent changes to the law of the state of Ohio, then that ought to be subject to a referendum.â€
But thereâ€™s a quick time frame â€“ just 90 days to file the paperwork and gather the signatures to put any disputed issues before voters. Paid workers have been able to make that happen, but many groups that advocate for and against causes donâ€™t have the funds to put together a petition drive in a short period of time. But abortion rights supporters say they have lawyers looking into this and other options.