2018 Year In Review: Lawmakers Leave Some Pressing Issues On Cutting Room Floor

Dec 28, 2018

Several high-profile bills made their way through the Ohio House and Senate after years of stalemate. However, there were still many other hot button issues that were left untouched. 

To get a good idea of the things that did not get done at the Statehouse this year, you could start by flashing back to two years ago, at a press conference during the last lame duck.

“I was hoping that I’d be here today to talk about an agreement for a solvency plan but I’m here now to tell you we’ve got the next best thing,” said Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) in December 2016, as he joined then-Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, labor groups, and business leaders to announce that they’d reached a compromise on the pending unemployment compensation crisis.

“And I’m confident with the support you see here among business and labor that we will have a solvency plan in place before April 1 of next year,” Schuring added.

But 2017 came and went without a plan. Schuring put a bill in committee but it never moved.

When Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) took over as the new House speaker, he said unemployment compensation is a thorny issue but, "We are one recession away from being back in debt to the U.S. government. And as bad as we wanted to get out of that, we need to have the same passionate to stay out of that going forward."

During the 2008 recession, the state went into debt and took more than five years to pay the feds back more than $3.5 billion.

A pro-gun rights bill that would remove the “duty to retreat” in cases of self-defense had a rocky process this year. The so-called “Stand Your Ground” bill seemed poised for approval until the Senate removed the “Stand Your Ground” part of the bill at the last minute.

Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester) wants to revisit the issue next year.

“People are going to continue to utilize techniques to deescalate a potentially violent situation but it’ll stop the second guessing in a court room later,” said Coley.

Several other gun-related bills, including Gov. John Kasich’s so-called “common sense” regulations like seizing guns from people viewed as dangerous and banning bump stocks stalled in the General Assembly as well.

Another bill that seemed to have momentum before sputtering out in the Senate was the “Pastor Protection Act.” The bill would double down on language that faith leaders don’t have to perform a marriage ceremony against their religious beliefs.

Equality Ohio’s Alana Jochum says the bill’s language on public accommodations could harm existing protected classes.

“It only expands the discrimination that can be permitted against everyone else currently protected,” Jochum said.

That does not include the LGBTQ community because the House and Senate have not moved on a bill to include sexual orientation and gender expression as protected classes. The so-called “Ohio Fairness Act” made it further this year than in the past 10 years, gaining more support from business groups.

Groups like Holly Gross’ Columbus Chamber, say the fairness act would attract a younger workforce to Ohio.

“Now, more than ever before, this generation, they care about the policies that employers have in place they are making decisions as to where they work based on those policies as well,” Gross said.

Other bills that got some attention but didn’t get final approval include the measure to strengthen Ohio’s vicious dogs law, the anti-bullying bill, a decrease in instruction hours for a cosmetology license, a review of all state licensing boards and a statewide ban on local plastic bag bans.

And after another topsy-turvy year for renewable energy policies, the Senate decided to not make any changes. Senate President Larry Obhof says it’s just one of many issues that will have to wait until next year.

“We do have some pretty tight time constraints I think it’s more important for us that we get policy right and not that we do it just because we have some self-imposed, arbitrary deadline,” said Obhof.

Republicans will return to the Statehouse next year retaining their super majorities in the House and Senate. Fellow Republican Mike DeWine has signaled that his agenda as governor will look fairly similar to the policies the Legislature hopes to prioritize, including economic development and early childhood development.