Short Notes from the November 18, 2009 Session of the 128th General Assembly

Welcome to Short Notes from the November 18, 2009 Session of the 128th General Assembly. This is a summary of what happened on the floor of the House in Columbus. This is not meant to be a formal summary of the bills, but meant to provide from my point of view what happened. I know that some readers may disagree with my point of view and I actually appreciate that. I love to learn about issues, study them and process them through my understanding. Full details are available on the House of Representatives website or email me at district46@ohr.state.oh.us and I’ll forward you the bill information and the fiscal notes.

Short notes from the House Floor

HB 290 (Bubp-R/Pryor-D)- Junior ROTC

Passed the House 96-0

Currently Ohio has 63 JROTC programs serving over 7000 cadets. Schools receive federal funding for the cadet programs. This bill fixes an unintended oversight of the Ohio Department of Education in the Budget that eliminated the program and adds Junior ROTC back into the Core curriculum and defines it as a permitted elective. The bill also allows school districts, STEM schools and chartered nonpublic schools to consider participation in the Junior ROTC as credit for at least two years of high school physical education.

Two amendments were added; the first amendment (Dyer-D) contained an emergency clause – addressing school facilities construction funding. There were five school districts in Ohio that had recent levies defeated by less than 100 votes. This bill will keep them on the School Facilities “list” while they make another attempt to get a levy passed. Not necessarily a popular amendment with many republicans, but it was attached to a favored bill. The second amendment was originally Representative Morgan’s (R) amendment, but on the House Floor became Dyer’s (D), this amendment made a correction to Community Schools, there was an unintended rule that required closures of some Community Schools. Representative Morgan has been a champion of School Choice. This bill will move to the Senate for consideration.

HB 175 (Gerberry –D) Humane Society Agent Record Proof of Training / Revocation
Passed the House 91-7

This bill stems from an issue in Youngstown. Currently the County Humane Society Agent is required to successfully complete specific training; however they are not required to submit documentation to anyone. This bill will require that the certificate of training be filed with the Recorders office. One amendment was submitted by Rep. Gerberry (D) to provide for a documentation filing fee.

Although single issue legislation is generally not good policy, it does seem to make sense that if you are going to require training you should have documentation on file that the training has occurred. This bill has moved to the Senate.

HB 238 (Harwood –D) Full Disclosure of Marital Assets

Passed the House 97-0

This bill requires the full and complete disclosure of martial property, separate property and other assets. Failure to disclosure assets will be considered a form of financial misconduct, subject to additional compensation or a greater award of marital property to the offended spouse. This bill has moved to the Senate.

HB 87 (Phillips – D) Creates the Ohio Energy Resource Center

Passed the House 68-30

This bill is a true earmark. It creates the Ohio Energy Resource Center at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University (Rep Phillips district). I originally voted for the bill in Finance Committee, but then having received additional information, I began to look deeper and choose to vote against it on the Floor. SB 3 (Olman-R) in the 123rd General Assembly, which was the original electric deregulation bill created a rider on your electric bills of .09 cents per month, with higher riders for commercial and industrial customers its purpose was to create a pool of funds for the purpose of providing “financial assistance to customers for eligible advanced energy projects for residential, commercial, and industrial business, local government, educational institution, nonprofit, and agriculture customers, and to pay for the program’s administrative costs.” It appears that in looking back to at least FY 2006 we have used about half of the dollars we have been appropriating. The fund balance is now at $38,047,779. The intent was to advance energy projects; this earmark creates a Center that is designed to be a knowledge hub and database of research. It also will provide technical assistance to state and local governments and businesses located in an Appalachian county (Rep Phillips District). The total earmark is $200,000. Probably the biggest concern that I had was shortly after the committee vote, I hear it said that some Democrats were looking to take the .09 to $1.00 - $1.50 and increase commercial and industrial to create a larger fund that can be used for earmarks. This is a direct pass through on your electric bill. Example; if we have 3 million households with electric bills that’s roughly $3 million dollars added each month just for residential customers; currently our annual collection equals roughly $3 million!! I believe this bill expands the scope of the purpose of SB 3. Those two reasons gave me enough pause to reconsider my vote on the Floor. I am studying this Fund and its intent, searching for more information than we received in committee. This bill has moved to the Senate.

HB 260 (Stewart-D/Heard-D) Elections Law – Revise

Passed 53-45

So many things to dislike about this bill it will be hard to summarize here. It’s easier for me to give you a sense of my concerns by looking at some of the amendments. In a rare move this year, the Committee accepted 3 Republican amendments: Mecklenborg (R) to remove the provision requiring flags be placed 100 feet from the entrance to a polling location. The bill would have mandated the 100 foot flags be placed in the middle of a road if that’s where the measurement reached. Hackett (R) Removed a provision making wrongly challenging a voter a 1st degree misdemeanor. Can you imagine someone making a challenge if they thought they could be charged with a 1st degree misdemeanor? Daniels (R) Increased the time limit from 5 minutes to 10 minutes that a person can vote in a poll booth. The change from 5 minutes to 10 minutes makes sense, it’s important to give people the opportunity to read everything. HB 260 would have increased it to unlimited. You could literally have someone who wanted to disrupt the election process just stand there all day forcing delays. The other 12 Republican amendments failed 6-7 along party lines.

A couple of the other Republican amendments were: Martin (R) – would have required provisional ballot to be cast in the correct precinct. This bill requires that all precincts have all county signatures in the book. We heard that a county wide book would take rough 6 hours to print…for each precinct. Daniels (R) – Would have required the political subdivision requesting a special election to pay 100% of the estimated costs up front and “true up” with the BOE 30 days after the election. R. Adams (R) – would have removed the provision allowing a voter to register or update their voter registration via website if they have a valid Ohio driver’s license. Martin (R) – Would have removed the provision allowing a voter to change their name or address at a polling location and vote a regular ballot. Note the regular ballot versus a provisional ballot which would need to be verified. Mecklenborg (R) – Would have removed the provision that the boards make the names of provisional voters and the precincts in which they voted available for public inspecting 24 hours after the unofficial canvass deadline. Imagine being in a small precinct with a 23-1 vote and you were the “1” and you voted provisional…so much for confidential elections!

Maybe my favorite (sarcastic) Democratic amendment was by Garrison (D) as in candidate for Secretary of State Garrison - extended the MOVE (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment ) Act which is a Federal Act that allows our Military and Overseas Voters to receive ballots electronically, she provided a 565 page amendment. The amendment expands the MOVE Act to apply to all absentee voters, regardless of location or military status…let’s HOPE everyone has secure internet access…

On the Floor – one amendment was passed Heard (D); Six amendments all Republican were tabled with little to no discussion. Rep Wachtmann (R) summed it up best as quoted in Gongwer “Rep. Lynn Wachtmann (R-Napoleon) delivered the harshest criticism of the legislation. "As I look at this bill ... and listen to this debate ... to me this is a very sad day for the future of our elections. This is a bad bill," Rep. Wachtmann said. "Groups like ACORN and others certainly will like this bill because it gives allowances ... in the election process for additional corruption," he said.” Enough said!

The bill was moved to the Senate where in my opinion it can sit and die on December 31, 2010.

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