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Republican who lost vote for Ohio House speaker unveils his own priority agenda

Flanked by several of his supporters, Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) releases his team's priority list for House legislation on February 22, 2023.
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Flanked by several of his supporters, Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) releases his team's priority list for House legislation on February 22, 2023.

House Republicans who supported Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) in his failed bid for speaker last month say they have an agenda they want to pass. And while there are several bills similar to ones on the priority list unveiled last week by Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), they say some important measures are missing.

The universal voucher “Backpack Bill” is on both lists, along with a ban on trans athletes in girls’ sports and other measures. A major change in tax policy is also on both, though the proposals are different.

Here's the full priority list for Merrin's team, as described in a press release:

  • Protecting Ohio's constitution
  • Eliminating Ohio's income tax
  • Empowering families through school choice and education reform'
  • Supporting our local governments
  • Restoring confidence in state government through ethics reform
  • Fighting for family values
  • Providing affordable, reliable energy for Ohio businesses and families
  • Preserving our freedoms
  • Improving healthcare and lowering costs for all Ohioans
  • Strengthening our workforce and welfare reform

There are several bills listed under some of these headings. For instance, under "fighting for family values", the ban on trans athletes in girls' sports is listed, along with a newly proposed ban on gender affirming treatment and surgery for minors and the "Equal Parenting Bill", which seeks to ensure if a child's parents break up, each parent has equal time with the child.

But Merrin’s top two priorities are requiring 60% voter approval before amending the constitution and eliminating the income tax, which Merrin notes weren’t on Stephens’ priority list.

“There's several differences there. But we want to partner with Speaker Stephens. We want to partner with, really, the other 22 Republicans that really left our Republican caucus. We want to work with them," said Merrin.

The Backpack Bill is on Stephens' list, as House Bill 11. The trans athlete ban is House Bill 6, and it's known as the "Save Women's Sports" Act for both the Stephens and Merrin teams. A bill addressing environmental, societal and governance (ESG) investing is House Bill 4, and it's sponsored by Merrin supporters Rep, Tom Young (R-Washington Township) and Angie King (R-Celina). And a measure with changes to the State Board of Education as mentioned by Merrin is House Bill 12.

The resolution to ask voters to require 60% voter approval for constitutional amendments was assigned House Joint Resolution 1, but it wasn't on Stephens' priority list, while it tops Merrin's.

"House Republicans do not want abortion enshrined in the constitution. We do not want socialist measures dealing with the economy enshrined into the constitution," Merrin said. "And that is why we have repeatedly asked and pressed to strengthen our constitution and not allow it to be hijacked by left wing socialists by requiring a 60% threshold, and we've been blocked for doing that."

Merrin is also proposing going to a flat tax of 2.5%, and then eliminating it altogether. Merrin said that would cost the state $1.4 billion, though a fiscal analysis of the plan hasn't been completed. But he said his proposal wouldn't mean massive budget cuts.

"The state right now is flush with cash, and we should have a savings account. We should be responsible," Merrin said. "Some people want to take the cash balance that we have on hand and spend it on one-time projects or just set up a new fund, which, a lot of those ideas deserve attention, deserve merit and a close look at. But it just shows that we do have the money. So it's about priorities."

Stephens' House Bill 1 would create a 2.75% flat tax and eliminate the state’s 10% property tax deduction that’s been in place since 1983, along with other property tax changes. Its sponsor, Rep. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon), said local governments and school districts are estimated to lose $1.2 billion annually under House Bill 1.

Merrin won 43 Republican votes in the House floor vote for speaker last month. Stephens won 22 GOP votes, but also got all 32 House Democratic votes, so he is speaker. But Merrin has said he is the leader of the Ohio House Republican caucus, which Stephens disputes.

No response to the list from Stephens, who controls the House agenda.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at