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2022 Year In Review: Education overhaul and new abortion restrictions among bills that didn’t pass

large bill .jpg
Andy Chow
/
Statehouse News Bureau
A stack of papers sits on the House Clerk counter, representing several pieces of legislation and amendments proposed during a lengthy lame-duck session.

Abortion, education, and LGBTQ issues dominated conversation in the Ohio Statehouse in 2022. But most of the bills dealing with those topics ended up on the cutting room floor of the Ohio General Assembly.

The bill that tied up the legislature in the last hours of 2022’s session was a measure to overhaul the state’s education department.

The plan, Senate Bill 178, would have stripped power away from the Ohio State Board of Education and given it to the governor’s office. Senate Republicans wanted it but House Republicans wavered.

In a big move to attract right-wing votes, the Senate rolled the bill into a different bill that banned transgender girls from girls’ sports.

Opponents, such as Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), chided Republicans for smashing two major bills into one 2,000-page plan on the final night of voting.

“And then we come in here and 20 minutes later, we are all now voting on something that we have no clue what’s in it,” said Thomas.

In the end, both the education overhaul bill and the transgender athlete ban failed to gain enough votes to pass.

Another bill that didn’t pass was a measure to ban gender affirming care for minors. Republicans said it would help teenagers avoid what they called long-term damage to their bodies.

But LGBTQ advocates and parents of transgender kids slammed the bill for discriminating against trans youth.

Mikael McLaren has a 17-year-old transgender daughter. McClaren said kids like his daughter are at high risk of mental health issues, and that treatment like hormone therapy can help.

“It’s the hand-in-glove treatment of the physical and the mental and emotional treatment that work to take away the things like anxiety and depression,” said McLaren.

With a packed agenda during lame duck, Republicans took that bill off the table but they plan to bring it back next year.

Conservative legislators introduced but failed to pass several measures to extend restrictions on abortion, including Rep. Gary Click’s (R-Vickery) total ban without exceptions for rape or incest.

“I would love to see us go to that place where we protect that person we respect and that we value life from the moment of conception. So I would love to see there be no abortions with the exceptions of a time when there is a medical emergency. I would certainly want to save the life of the mother," said Click.

Republican leaders couldn’t find a consensus on next steps around abortion, so those measures were shelved until next year.

A last-minute resolution from Republicans about constitutional amendments also failed to pass the legislature.

Currently, to change the constitution, a simple majority of voters need to approve a ballot measure. The failed proposal would have raised that threshold to 60%.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, backed the resolution.

“This is about trying to make the Ohio constitution less susceptible to special interests and if something has 60% of support then it will pass,” said LaRose.

But hundreds of voter rights groups and community organizations rallied against the measure and it never came to a vote.

Republican leaders say they’ll try for the resolution again next year. They’ll have to pass it by Feb. 1 to put it on the May ballot, as it too would need voter approval.

Many other bills received hearings and made it through part of the committee process before stalling in one way or another. Bills to strengthen background checks for gun purchases, enhance penalties against domestic violence, and loosen statutes of limitations for rape cases all failed to pass.

But supporters of those measures – and many others – plan to reintroduce their plans in the next general assembly.

Contact Andy at achow@statehousenews.org.