Policy Points–new feature

  • Policy Points–new feature

Public Policy RadarPolicy Points from the Institute for Principled Policy
June 29, 2009

State policy actions
House Bill 176 (Steward {D} and McGregor {R})–Equal Housing and Employment Act—This legislation would create special protections under the state’s civil rights laws for “sexual orientations” to include homosexual, bisexual and “gender identity” classifications. The bill contains language to require the development of educational programming to teach of the origins and sources of “discrimination”, which is mandated to be taught to all public school children and “all Ohioans”. There are exemptions for religious organizations or orders in relation to hiring and housing, but not for individuals whose religious beliefs or conscience would be violated by having to comply with these provisions. The bill passed from the House State Government committee on a party line vote, but may come to the floor of the House this week where it may pick up some additional bipartisan support.

House Bill 1 (Sykes) State operating budget—This legislation, which is the funding mechanism for state government for the biennium beginning July 1, 2009, is currently before a committee of conference to work out difference between the House version and the Senate version of the bill. The House version would resurrect the old Outcomes-based Education catastrophe that was defeated in this state 16 years ago, create mandatory “community service” as a condition for graduation in Ohio, assess students on behavioral or belief positions as part of their ability to graduate, and turn over key decision making to the State superintendent rather than to elected education policymakers. The Senate has removed this from the bill.

The bill was sent from the House with a growth of spending of over $1 billion from the Governor’s proposal, which was itself a 6% spending increase over the biennium. Economic conditions and the reduction in revenue estimates have made this spending level unachievable without significant increases in taxes. The Senate has removed the additional spending growth, but is faced with having to replace nearly $1 billion in resources that were going to be used in this upcoming biennium from the state’s rainy day fund, as that money will now need to be used to bring the current budget into balance, as revenues have fallen below the projections upon which the current budget’s spending were based.

The bill also “balances” the budget on one-time funds (stimulus money), grows government by over 6%, increases taxpayer burden through the imposition of increased and newly-created “fees” and “penalties”. The state auditor has projected the next biennium’s shortfall, because of the use of one-time funds to bring this budget in “balance”, as in the neighborhood of $8.2 billion. Without more one-time funding, such an irresponsible budget now will ensure tax increases in the next biennium.

The budget must, by the Ohio Constitution, be in balance and in place by July 1. The conference committee will meet to try to finalize their difference and issue a report that both chambers mayvote upon on Tuesday.

Video Lottery Terminal proposal—This move by Governor Ted Strickland would allow for up to 2500 “video lottery terminals” (ie slot machines) at each of Ohio’s seven horse-racing tracks, in an effort to prop up a dying racing industry. Ohio’s restaurant and bar lobbies, retail merchants, grocers, and others also want to be included in the plan. The Ohio Lottery Commission would oversee this radical expansion of gambling in Ohio, much as they have recently presided over the rollout of the wildly unsuccessful Keno game in bars and restaurants in the state. This has become a showdown with the state’s out of balance budget used as the vehicle to move this proposal forward. Numerous studies have shown the deep and traumatic effects of this form of gambling on the family and on communities in which this is allowed, where the costs outweigh benefits by a significant factor. Additionally, there are serious Constitutional questions as to whether this can legitimately be accomplished as an expansion of the lottery.

Casino ballot initiative–A group of casino operators (Penn National, Argosy, etc.) have circulated petitions to place on the November 2009 ballot a casino authorization measure, allowing full casino gambling in 4 Ohio cities. The proponents collected and submitted to the Ohio Secretary of State over 800,000 signatures of registered voters, needing just over 405,000 to qualify this initiative for the ballot. It is highly likely, barring any legal challenges, that voters will be deciding upon this on November 3.

House Concurrent Resolution 11 (Martin and Jordan) and Senate Concurrent Resolution 13 (Grendell and Faber)–State Sovereignty—These companion resolutions would put Ohio on record as reiterating their rights under Article 4 and the 9th and 10th Amendments to the US Constitution to protect the sovereignty of the state against federal mandates and actions. The House version has had one hearing in the Democratically-controlled chamber, and will not likely be brought back up for hearings. The Senate version has been scheduled for its second hearing in the Senate State Government committee, but that hearing has been postponed due to the pending budget action.

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