January 2019 Legislative Update
Bricker & Eckler LLP
President Donald Trump has signed a bill aimed at giving local governments more leeway in meeting federal water requirements. The Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act is intended to make it easier for communities to comply with the Clean Water Act’s mandates. The introduction was sponsored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Cleveland) and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Terrace Park). The legislation also creates the Office of Municipal Ombudsman at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help municipalities meet federal environmental mandates, among other provisions.
Goodbye Governor Kasich, Hello New Administration:
New Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted were sworn in to office shortly after midnight on Monday, January 14. Ceremonial swearing-in events occurred at Noon at the Statehouse, and the inaugural ball occurred there the evening of January 14.
Ceremonies and receptions for others elected to statewide office (Attorney General Dave Yost, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, State Auditor Keith Faber and State Treasurer Robert Sprague) also occurred January 14.
Immediately after being sworn in, Governor DeWine signed executive orders that:
- Create the Governor’s RecoveryOhio Initiative;
- Create the Governor’s Children’s Initiative;
- Establish Ohio as a disability inclusion state and model employer of people with disabilities;
- Elevate foster care as a priority issue;
- Elevate prevention efforts within the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and
- Preserve all the anti-discrimination language that was in place during the prior administration, but also adds language preventing discrimination against foster parents, those who are pregnant, and people who have young children.
Before being sworn in, Governor DeWine announced additional director nominee positions in his Cabinet including:
- Senator Randy Gardner – Chancellor of the Department of Higher Education
- Representative Dorothy Pelanda – Department of Agriculture
- Jillian Froment – Department of Insurance
- Kimberly Hall – Job and Family Services
- Maureen Corcoran – Medicaid
- Lori Criss – Mental Health and Addiction Services
- Jack Marchbanks – Transportation
- Jeffrey Davis – Developmental Disabilities
- Stephanie McCloud – Workers Compensation
- Ryan Gies – Youth Services
- Ursel McElroy – Aging
- Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Deborah Ashenhurst – Veteran Services
- Laurie Stevenson – Ohio EPA
- Andy Wilson – senior advisor for criminal justice policy
Governor DeWine announced that Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted would be the director of InnovateOhio as well as lead the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. Husted’s office will also continue to oversee the efforts of the Common Sense Initiative (CSI), which was overseen by Husted’s predecessor, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
According to the Lieutenant Governor, the goal of the initiative is to make Ohio a more innovative and creative state. The office will focus on customer service to improve interactions Ohioans have with state government while creating better outcomes and saving tax dollars. He said the program will focus more on integrating technology into state government so that everything it touches can be improved, citing efforts like the use of data analytics. He also said the office will work with all the cabinet agencies to implement an innovative, efficient culture across state government.
Protection for the Great Lakes
Governor DeWine was recently named to the leadership team of the Conference of Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers, which works to protect the Great Lakes and grow the region’s economy.
Fix our Roads Coalition
A coalition of government, business, transportation and regional planning councils has formed a new coalition, “Fix Our Roads Ohio,” to lobby the state to come up with new sources of funding to address a projected shortfall in Ohio Department of Transportation’s funding for new projects. The coalition attributes the shortfall to the expiration of the Ohio Turnpike bond program at the end of this fiscal year. The group includes local government entities, transportation groups, business coalitions and others.
133rd General Assembly
The 133rd General Assembly convened on January 7 to administer oaths of office and elect leadership.
The House speakership had been bitterly contested for more than a year by Republican Larry Householder and incumbent Republican Speaker Ryan Smith. To the surprise of many, on the first vote of members, Larry Householder won the position by a 52-46 vote. Speaker Householder persuaded 26 Democrats to support him by gaining the support of labor groups which urged Democrats to support Householder. Following the surprise turn of events, presumed Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) announced he was resigning from that post at the end of the month. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) also resigned as minority whip.
Speaker Householder announced that the Republican caucus will hold a retreat January 23 to determine its priorities for the year. Following the resignation of Minority Leader Strahorn, House Democrats announced they will meet at 2 p.m. on Jan. 23 to informally pick their leadership slate. Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) announced her intention to seek the House Minority Leader position previously held by Rep. Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). Also interested in leadership posts are Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo).
The next full House session slated, at which the leadership for both parties could be finalized, is February 6.
In the meantime, draft rules for a revised committee structure have been distributed for consideration by a special House Rules Committee announced by Speaker Householder. Under the draft rules, two standing committees from the last General Assembly would be eliminated and a new Commerce & Labor Committee would be established. The new structure is slated for committee approval January 30. The draft proposes 20 standing committees including Aging and Long-Term Care, Agriculture & Rural Development, Armed Services & Veterans Affairs, Civil Justice, Criminal Justice, Commerce & Labor, Economic & Workforce Development, Energy & Natural Resources, Federalism, Finance, Financial Institutions, Health, Higher Education, Insurance, Primary & Secondary Education, Public Utilities, Rules & Reference, State & Local Government, Transportation & Public Safety, and Ways & Means. Two committees that existed in the previous legislature would be eliminated: Community & Family Advancement and Government Accountability & Oversight.
Under the revised structure, the commerce committee would handle issues previously handled by the economic development committee, which under the proposal would be renamed the Economic & Workforce Development Committee. The formerly named Higher Education & Workforce Development Committee would be renamed the Higher Education Committee. A handful of other committees would also be renamed, including the replacement of the Education & Career Readiness Committee with a standing committee on Primary & Secondary Education.
The subcommittee structure would also be modified. Under the Finance Committee, the State Government & Agency Review Subcommittee would be eliminated, but the subcommittees on Primary & Secondary Education, Higher Education, Transportation, Health & Human Services and Agriculture & Rural Development would remain. With the elimination of the Community & Family Advancement Committee, that panel’s Minority Affairs Subcommittee would also be abolished. The proposed rules provide that three key subcommittees will be co-chaired by Democrats, including the Finance Subcommittee on Primary & Secondary Education and two new subcommittees: one on Energy Generation under Energy & Natural Resources, and another on Criminal Sentencing beneath Criminal Justice.
In addition to committee changes, the plan includes a series of other changes Democrats believe will give them more of a voice in the legislative process. One change is aimed at curtailing majority members’ ability to table minority party amendments in committee.
In the Senate, Republican Larry Obhof was reelected for a final (term-limited) two-year term as Senate President. Senate Session is scheduled for January 30.
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