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'Intellectual diversity' anti-DEI bill targeted at Ohio universities stalls in House - for now

State Senator Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) reacts to his higher education bill (SB83) being stalled in the Ohio House.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) reacts to Senate Bill 83 stalling in the Ohio House.

A controversial conservative-backed bill requiring "intellectual diversity" on certain topics such as electoral politics, marriage and abortion and limiting the use of diversity training at Ohio’s universities did not pass the House before lawmakers went on summer break.

Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), the sponsor of Senate Bill 83, blamed "a lack of leadership" for the bill not making it to the House floor for a vote. And he made it clear he won't meet with House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) over the summer to discuss changing the legislation so it can pass the entire House this fall.

“I’ve heard from very credible people in the House that there are the votes,” Cirino told reporters before the House met Wednesday for what's expected to be its final session before the fall election.

Members of faculty and student groups are among the hundreds who are on record against SB 83, which bans most diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training, limits what unionized faculty members can include in collective bargaining agreements, and changes how tenured faculty are reviewed. Cirino said he's changed his bill to attract more support - for instance, scrapping a ban on faculty strikes.

"I have not received word that there were some particular issues in the bill that the speaker was unhappy with. Nothing came to me at all. Absolutely zero input," Cirino said. "This bill has come and gone. That's why I'm not interested and will not participate in discussions. Respectfully, during the summer. what I'm going to do, along with Senate Bill 83, the two of us are going to enjoy the summer, and we're going to wait for a more favorable environment in the House before 83 comes back to discussion."

But the situation will likely be different next year, as Senate President Matt Huffman is expected to challenge Stephens for speaker. Both Huffman and Stephens are running unopposed for the House.

Cirino and Reps. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.) had been talking to House members to gauge whether there's enough support to pass the bill as it stands. He was asked if a House led by Huffman would be more amenable for his bill.

"That certainly would be a more favorable environment, I think most people would say," Cirino said.

Huffman has been a strong supporter of SB 83, and added it to the Senate's version of the budget last year to try to get it passed. It was removed in conference committee.

And Cirino has said if the bill dies in this session, he plans to bring it back. And he said last year that if that happens, the bill is going to look a lot different than it does right now. And most importantly, it will be absent the concessions that I have made.”

Republicans have said SB 83 will protect "free speech" on campus, to push back on what they have called "liberal indoctrination" at public colleges and universities. Hundreds of faculty members, students and others testified against the bill, saying it would have the opposite effect on expression and could hurt Ohio's ability to attract top professors, researchers and students.

A bipartisan bill called the Campus Accountability and Modernization to Protect University Students (CAMPUS) Act was approved on Wednesday. It requires colleges to adopt and enforce policies to combat harassment or intimidation based on racial, religion or ethnicity. The CAMPUS Act, which had been House Bill 606, was rolled into Senate Bill 94. That bill on modernizing county records ended up being a catchall for several bills.

Contact Jo Ingles at