Ohio House passes its version of the budget, but not without some controversy
The Ohio House passed its version of a two-year operating budget with votes from most Republicans and all but two Democrats.
But there were lawmakers who wanted to bring about two dozen amendments to the floor to change the budget somehow, and they were denied discussion on those proposals. House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) called for the vote and didn't allow any of the amendments to be considered.
After the House session, Stephens made a brief statement to reporters then walked away as they tried to ask him why he didn't allow amendments to come up for consideration.
Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R - Kitts Hill) refused to take up amendments to the budget. He made a brief statement to reporters after the vote but walked away when we were trying to ask him about why he didn’t take up amendments. pic.twitter.com/MC9klq7uEH— Jo Ingles (@joingles) April 26, 2023
Reporters then flocked to Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township), the Republican caucus leader who lost his bid for the speaker's position to Stephens in January. Merrin gave a reason why Stephens didn't want amendments to come up for a vote on the floor.
“Speaker Stephens was protecting the House Bill 6 energy subsidies and he didn’t want to take a vote on it," Merrin said.
That corruption-tainted nuclear bailout law is the one that ended up being at the center of racketeering convictions against former House Speaker Larry Householder and Matt Borges, the former head of the Ohio Republican Party.
Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) was the member who wanted to propose the amendment to repeal the remaining parts of House Bill 6, including subsidies to two coal-fired power plants owned by American Electric Power, among other electric utilities. She said it's not the first time he's tried that. And while she said Democrats would have liked to vote on that and other amendments, Stephens, who Russo and other Democrats supported in his bid for speaker, is in charge of the process.
"But at the end of the day, I think it's the speaker's decision to decide whether or not to move forward and someone called the vote and here we are," Russo said.
Merrin said Republicans also wanted to bring up an amendment that would have provided funding for what's known as the "Backpack Bill", a universal voucher program that would have given nearly all Ohioans public vouchers to send their kids to private schools. Merrin said there was also an amendment to give additional tax breaks to Ohioans and one that would have provided local governments with more money.