House Republicans Outline Priorities, Initiatives for 2012
Workforce development, beginning hearings on fixing school funding formula among top goals for legislative session
COLUMBUS—On the heels of a successful first half of the General Assembly that saw the passage of more than 90 bills that address issues from regulatory reform and the creation of JobsOhio to prescription drug abuse, Speaker of the Ohio House William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) and members of the House Republican Caucus today unveiled their legislative priorities for 2012 at a press conference at the Ohio Statehouse.
“It was not too long ago that this state faced an $8 billion budget hole that was created when the former administration wrote short-term checks with disappearing ink,” said Speaker Batchelder. “In 2011, this caucus faced one of the greatest challenges ever put onto the plate of a legislature—deciding whether to fill an enormous deficit by either reducing state spending or by raising taxes on every family in Ohio. We defied the skeptics; we filled this deficit without raising taxes, we kept vital services intact and protected our state’s most vulnerable. The second half of the General Assembly will be focused on building upon this strong foundation that we have worked so hard for and bringing about a brighter, more prosperous Ohio in a number of ways.”
The priorities outlined by House Republicans include a close analysis, fact finding, and making recommendations for revising Ohio’s school funding formula, which in 1997 was deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court. Despite the court ruling, Ohio’s school funding system has not undergone any transformative changes that have wholly fixed the root of the problem. To address this issue, House Republicans announced that they will initiate comprehensive, bipartisan hearings on both the funding formula and student achievement, which will be led by Representative Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) throughout the duration of 2012.
“The goal of these discussions will be to figure out how we can make our schools and students more successful in a cost-efficient manner for Ohio’s taxpayers,” said Rep. Amstutz. “We want to create a new model of achievement and accountability that will benefit all of Ohio’s students and give those from disadvantaged geographic regions an equal chance to succeed. We will work diligently on legislation to incorporate the findings into practice and place Ohio’s schools back on track with an equitable and fair funding formula. The goal of any legislation implemented is to create an equitable funding formula and to develop a more accurate measure of success and achievement for our students.”
The House Republican Caucus also laid out a proposal to implement the recommendations of the JobsOhio report through the creation of the Development Services Agency. The proposal will complete the transition to a lean, streamlined public/private partnership free of the cumbersome bureaucracy that characterized Ohio’s economic efforts in the past. Additionally, the caucus discussed strategies for implementing the findings of the Ohio Workforce Development Study Committee, specifically focusing on helping career tech schools and community colleges to prepare a ready workforce, as well as training Ohioans for imminent shale and energy jobs.
“We continue to strive to get unemployment down, help Ohioans find work, and create new opportunities for Ohio well into the future,” said Speaker Batchelder. “We have maintained a focus on jobs throughout 2011—from passing several tax credits to encourage economic investment and job retention, to exploring our energy potential that could create hundreds of thousands of jobs— and Ohioans can expect that we will continue this focus into 2012 and beyond.”
The caucus has also revealed plans to reform the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, building upon existing reforms to go further in assisting injured workers while identifying other cost-saving possibilities.
Other legislative items that the House Republican Caucus intends to address include:* The Great Lakes Compact
* Casino and gaming laws
* Healthcare exchange
* Laws pertaining to exotic animals
“We have tackled the issues that are most important to the people of this state, and we will continue to do so for as long as we have the privilege of leading this House,” said Speaker Batchelder. “There is much time and energy that we must be prepared to invest in order to revive the state of Ohio, and we are ready to do the work necessary in order to breathe new life into this state and be able to compete nationally. We’ve come a long way, but we have much, much farther to go—we are just getting started.”
Tuesday, January 17, 2012