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Government/Politics

Ohio House And Senate Trade Legislative Changes As Budget Deadline Looms

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Andy Chow
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House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima)

As the clock ticks toward the June 30 deadline to pass Ohio's operating budget for the next two years, lawmakers squared off on a number of big issues circulating the Statehouse.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) spent Thursday navigating floor sessions, bill debates, and negotiations for a final budget deal.

Both leaders say those talks are going well and they're happy with the progress they're making.

Huffman said among the discussions is what to do with the $3 billion surplus discovered in the Ohio budget.

The Senate's budget plan already includes a 5% income tax cut across the board, costing the state $874 million. But Huffman says he would like to use that extra surplus money to cut taxes even more.

"So I think it's a question of how those dollars can be used to broaden that tax cut at this point," says Huffman. 

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has warned against using the surplus money for tax cuts, saying it’s one-time money related to federal COVID-19 relief and should either be saved or used for investment in things like infrastructure. 

Along with the budget, lawmakers have been working on getting other pieces of legislation passed before they leave for summer break. Among those bill is SB187, which allows college athletes to be compensated for their name, image, and likeness for their participation in college sports.

The bill received unanimous support in the Senate and passed a House committee nearly unanimously. But the House made a last-minute amendment to the bill by attaching the hotly-contested ban on transgender athletes in women’s sports. Democrats erupted in anger.

A Senate Republican Caucus spokesperson said the chamber would not take up that amendment.

Instead, Senators attached the college athlete compensation legislation to HB29, a bill that expands the ability to get a veterans' ID card.

Not stopping there, the Senate also added its latest version of a bill to regulate sports betting in Ohio.

The House and Senate have clashed over the issue of sports betting for years.

Cupp was asked if he thought the two chambers could reach an agreement on the issue before break.

"I think that would be an extremely high lift. We have not even had an opportunity for a single committee hearing over here on sports betting," Cupp says. "I just can't see it getting done. Would I like to do it? Sure, but I'd like to have it go through committee, have hearings, and that sort of thing as well."

Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) says the Senate worked with members of the House before adding their sports betting amendment to HB29.

"We have certain key members in the House that we've talked to, negotiated with, who now support the legislation and we're hoping that those members can also apprise Speaker Cupp of the developments, movement, progress we've made and we need to get it done," Schuring says.

The latest sports betting package would have two types of licenses; Type A and Type B. Schuring says there would be 25 Type A licenses available that professional sports teams can apply for, along with casinos. The Type B license would be for up to 40 brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. The gambling legislation would also allow veterans and fraternal halls to have up to 7 e-bingo machines.

Huffman said if the House doesn't approve of the Senate's changes to HB29, then the issue of college athlete compensation could be added to the budget. He added that the e-bingo portion of the sports betting package could be peeled off and also added to the budget.

All of this is happening as the House and Senate continue to have budget negotiations before the June 30 deadline. Republican Senate President Matt Huffman says paying college athletes and legalizing e-bingo in veterans halls is something that could be added to the budget as well.

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