Monday, Dec 11, 2017
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Politics

Senate Democrats seek public’s help on Ohio budget

Amendments address priorities

COLUMBUS — Lacking the votes to go it alone, Ohio Senate Democrats on Thursday held a forum hoping to enlist the public’s help in their uphill battle to influence the state’s next two-year budget.

Democrats plan to offer numerous amendments on such things as bolstering the fight against the state’s escalating addiction epidemic, removing a House amendment blocking Toledo from enforcing its new lead law, and increasing funding for schools and local governments.

While some of their priorities overlap those of the Republican majority, Democrats are outnumbered 24-9 in the chamber in cases where there is no agreement.

Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson went as far as spelling out the name of the lawmaker who pushed the lead-law amendment in the House of Representatives, state Rep. Derek Merrin (R., Monclova Township), so a member of the audience would know what to call it when she approached her Republican senator seeking to have it removed.

“I’ll be honest and really crass about it,” the mayor said. “I need folks who can work, so we can get income taxes so we can pay for the services that we need.

“I believe every parent wants their child to be successful,” she said. “If we’re able to remove this impediment of lead, then we will have a better starting point for our young people to be productive, to be able to grasp and be educated and trained so they can work each and every day and not go into the criminal-justice system, and things like that.”

Toledo’s ordinance mandates that rental properties built before 1978 with up to four units and all home daycare centers undergo inspections to be certified “lead-safe.” 

Mr. Merrin’s House amendment would give sole regulatory authority over lead abatement to the state Department of Health, overriding local ordinances. Among other things, he maintains Toledo’s ordinance is unconstitutional because it applies only to smaller rental properties and not larger apartment complexes or owner-occupied homes.

As to the amendment’s fate in the upper chamber, Senate President Larry Obhof (R., Medina) said, “We haven’t discussed that as a caucus yet, so I’m not sure. We got about 1,500 amendments yesterday … and we’re sorting through those now.”

A full Senate vote is expected June 21. House Bill 49 will likely end up in a conference committee to work out a compromise capable of reaching Gov. John Kasich’s desk by the fiscal year’s end June 30.

Through April, state tax collections have lagged projections by $773.7 million, largely because of sluggish income and sales taxes. Republican legislative leaders reached agreement with Mr. Kasich to cut his budget proposal by $800 million.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, urged the chamber to restore $1 million in aid that the House has proposed to divert to another food entity.

She also took aim at proposed new work requirements for adults covered through Mr. Kasich’s controversial expansion of Medicaid and hoops the administration must jump through to access expansion funding.

“For far too many Ohioans, the connection between hard work and the middle class has been severed,” she said. “No longer is a full-time job a guarantee of economic stability, much less a middle-class livelihood.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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