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10 things that happened this week in the Ohio Statehouse

By MARC KOVAC GateHouse statehouse bureau Published: April 28, 2017 4:01 PM
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COLUMBUS -- The debate over the biennial budget continued, Gov. John Kasich was on the road promoting his new book, and Democrats in the Ohio House picked a new Akron-area representative.

Here are 10 things that happened around the Statehouse last week.

1. The Budget Vote: Initial amendments to the budget bill were accepted for consideration by the House Finance Committee.

That committee will amend the legislation again early in the week, with a potential committee vote on Monday. The budget should make it to the floor of the House by midweek, with initial plans for a vote of the full chamber midweek.

And remember: The final legislation adopted by lawmakers before July 1 likely will look a lot different than it does now. The Ohio Senate is already knee-deep in its own committee process on the spending plan.

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2. New Akron-area Member: House Democrats picked Summit County Common Pleas Magistrate Tavia Galonski to fill the remainder of Greta Johnson's term, after Johnson resigned the seat last month.

"Among the many qualified applicants, Tavia's leadership and experience make her the best possible representative for the thirty-fifth district," Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), who headed the screening panel that considered applicants, said in a released statement. "We are confident constituents will have a real advocate for their future in Mrs. Galonski."

The official floor vote on Galonski's appointment is expected during the House session on May 10.

3. Reunion of Sorts: A handful of former state lawmakers were at the Statehouse to testify on the budget, urging changes to provide more support for local communities.

The list included current Tuscarawas County Commissioner Kerry Metzger and current Wayne County Commissioner Ron Amstutz. The latter was head of the Finance Committee a few years back and the No. 2 leader in the House last session.

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4. MCO Replacement: Amstutz focused his comments on a proposed fix for the state's Medicaid Managed Care Organizations sales tax, which Ohio and other states have used to secure matching funds for programs serving the needy.

The federal government is closing that loophole, leaving a funding hole for local governments and public transit systems.

"Our county cannot afford to lose the estimated $800,000 in sales tax revenue that is projected not many months into what was proposed in the administration's budget," Amstutz said in his testimony. "Such a loss would put us at below what our revenues were nine years ago. And we are an average county. A number of the lower wealth counties that are more dependent on their health care sector would be hurt more severely."

5. Other Legislation: The Ohio House passed a few bills during it's one voting session of the week.

HB 45 would designate May as Neurofibromatosis Awareness Month, drawing attention to "a genetic disorder that causes tumors to form on nerve tissue in a person's nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Neurofibromatosis is usually diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood," according to an analysis by the state's Legislative Service commission.

HB 94 would designate February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.

Both bills passed on unanimous votes and head to the Ohio Senate for further consideration.

6. Speaking of the Senate: Senators, meanwhile, moved HB 84, which designates June as Ohio Goes Boating Month.

An analysis by the Legislative Service Commission notes, "In 2016, there were 505,440 boats registered" with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

The legislation next heads to the governor's desk.

7. Bills Postscript: Lawmakers also forwarded HB 9 to the governor, correcting legislation that passed during last year's lame duck session that allowed all vehicles to enter intersections with malfunctioning stoplight sensors. Lawmakers later said they intended only bicyclists to have that privilege.

The contents of HB 9 was included in the biennial transportation budget, which the governor earlier signed into law and which takes effect in July. But HB 9 includes an emergency clause, meaning it will take effect as soon as Kasich adds his signature.

8. Election Day: Tuesday is primary election day in Ohio.

While not getting the sort of attention as even-year contests, there still are 307 local issues to be decided across the state, with 74 counties having something on the ballot, according to the secretary of state's office.

9. Mark Your Calendars: This year's We the People Convention, spearheaded by the Portage County Tea Party's Tom Zawistowski, is set for June 24 in suburban Columbus and will focus on the 2018 gubernatorial race.

A release notes that participating candidates will not be debating -- rather, they'll each be given an hour to offer comments and answer questions.

Zawistowski noted in the release, "We ask that all Ohio Patriots withhold their endorsement of any candidate for Governor until this event is concluded. After the event, we will conduct a poll to determine what the consensus is coming out of the event which we will share with attendees."

There's a cost to attend ($10, to help over the cost of the facility and lunch), and tickets are limited. Details are online at causes.anedot.com/meetohiogovcandidates.

10. That Other Cabin: The state Controlling Board released $119,680 for improvements to the Lower Pugh Cabin at Malabar Farm State Park in Lucas.

The funds will be used to install a new ceiling, flooring and lights, to update heating, air conditioning and other systems and to waterproof the foundation, among other improvements, according to documents.

The lower cabin was built in 1956 and is only used during Malabar's annual maple syrup festival. According to documents, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources plans to renovate the cabin for future full-use rentals.

The Lower Pugh Cabin is one of two cabins built at Malabar by James Pugh and is not to be confused with the other one, which can be seen in "The Shawshank Redemption."

Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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