Ohio lawmakers passed their fair share of far reaching and controversial bills in 2105. And the budget was perhaps the most far reaching measure passed last year.
The budget was certainly the biggest measure passed in 2015 in terms of size and scope. Republican Senate President Keith Faber touted the part of that plan that cut taxes 6.3% across the board for individuals and eliminated the tax burden for businesses earning less than $250.000.
“We are continuing today to build on our commitment to fund what matters and to return to the taxpayers that which is not essential,” said Faber.
But Democrats in the Ohio legislature said the bulk of those tax cuts would benefit wealthy Ohioans. Senator Cecil Thomas says the average Ohio family would only get a $13 dollar tax cut.
“I’ve got a grandchild. Have you ever tried to feed a grandchild, a grandchild who is a teenager, on $13 when you take them out? That might get you a pizza,” said Thomas.
Republicans stripped from Gov. John Kasich's budget his proposed tax increases on oil and gas drillers, on tobacco products, and in the commercial activity tax. But the final budget did include a 35 cent increase in the tax on cigarettes. There were other parts of the budget that Democrats also opposed, some of which they said was included at the last minute, without even having committee hearings on them. One was a controversial plan that said abortion clinics must have transfer agreements with hospitals no more than 30 miles away to stay in business. But Faber says he realized some would vote against the budget, no matter what.
“Sometimes it’s your constituents, sometimes it is your principles and sometimes it’s that you didn’t get the right color sprinkle on top of your cupcake.”
The Ohio legislature also took up the issue of how to add more accountability, transparency and quality to the state's charter school system.
Lawmakers voted to prohibit sponsor-hopping - when sponsors pull support from a low-performing school so that school changes to another sponsor with lower standards. Republican Education Committee Chair Sen. Peggy Lehner believes all these new measures will create a more welcoming environment for other charter school operators looking to move to Ohio.
“That is one of the first and foremost purposes of this legislation they have let us know it’s kind of the wild, wild west here until we get our act in order they’re not really interested in Ohio,” said Lehner.
Ohio lawmakers also passed a law meant to deal with the algae problem that caused water in the Maumee Bay of Lake Erie to turn green and sludgy in the summer of 2014. It bans spreading of manure and fertilizer on frozen or rain soaked fields. Republican State Representative Brian Hill of Zanesville answered critics who say the bill didn’t go far enough.
“I know it doesn’t go as far as some would like to see but we all realize this is a beginning,” Hill said.
But at the close of 2015, the legislature has not come up with a new bill to further toughen regulations.
Ohio legislators also passed laws to provide more access to the anti-opioid overdose drug Naloxone, to eliminate the controversial PARCC standardized tests, to ban powdered caffeine and to move the presidential primary date back a week to March 15. It is thought that extra week would benefit Kasich's presidential campaign.