COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – State lawmakers will soon be back in full swing on Capitol Square as fall session starts next week and senate leadership is ready with their priorities for the next few months.
“There’s a number of other criminal justice reform bills we’ve been working on,” Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said. “I think a lot of the major items that I wanted to accomplish; we got done in the budget.”
Ending the death penalty is a priority for Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood).
”I’ve been working on this since I first came to the legislature in 2011,” Antonio said.
Antonio said with a bi-partisan bill both in the House and Senate to abolish the death penalty, she is confident it can get done this General Assembly.
“I have high hopes,” Antonio said. “I’ve already asked the Senate president if we could please have some more hearings, and I’m hoping there will be the opportunity.”
Antonio said Huffman has been receptive to the idea of moving the bill forward.
According to Antonio, aside from abolishing the death penalty, the democratic caucus will focus on things like affordable housing, attracting and retaining a workforce, quality childcare and increasing the quality of life for Ohioans.
“And a welcoming business climate,” Antonio said. “That means passing the fairness act, the LGBTQ fairness act. It’s all about growing the economy by welcoming all people to the state of Ohio.”
Huffman said there’s one bill in particular that he wants to see cross the finish line.
“I would like to see Senate Bill 83, the higher education reform bill, move through the House,” Huffman said. “Or have the House version of that bill come to the Senate so that we can complete that work.”
Antonio said it’s a priority for the democratic caucus to stop that bill from going through.
Huffman said he thinks that bill can help cut the cost of higher education in Ohio. He points to colleges like Purdue University, which he says cuts costs each year to avoid hiking tuition.
“No university does that in the state of Ohio. Why? Well, nobody’s making them do it,” Huffman said. “The administrative costs have been extraordinary in the past 30 years.”
He said Senate Bill 83 can help with that — by giving tools to college presidents and board trustees to control costs.
“When we’re just getting more administrators and in the case of Ohio State, the promise of the last president to hire 100 new diversity officers at Ohio State, that’s why the trustees have announced a 3% tuition increase,” Huffman said.
Senate Bill 83 would prohibit mandatory diversity equity and inclusion training, but Huffman said he does not think that is not the center of the bill.
“The important part of 83 is the parts that are ‘what are the tools we can give universities to control costs if they’re willing to do it,’” Huffman said.
While Antonio agreed that affordable college is important — she does not think this bill is the way to do it.
“I do not see any elements in that bill as I’m aware of it that really adds to the quality of higher ed,” Antonio said. “What I would like to see us do is make college affordable and available to all students that want to participate, but in the process the general assembly should not be writing curriculum. That’s not our job, we’re not the experts.”
Next week the redistricting commission will meet to redraw district maps both for the Ohio House and Senate. Huffman and Antonio both say it’s a priority to get those maps drawn in a timely manner.