For nearly five months state lawmakers have been off for summer break and to campaign for the fall election.
Tuesday they got back to holding committee hearings on legislation that would impact Ohioan’s lives.
Lawmakers held hearings on 60 bills Tuesday; 50 of them have been waiting nearly 2 years for their first hearing in front of their committees. Wednesday they will hear another 42 bills.
With just six weeks to go before the session ends anything that isn’t passed before session ends fails and must start the process over.
A common practice as the session comes to an end is to attach a number of bills to another as amendments. Lawmakers call this Christmas treeing a bill.
“It starts out as a very basic bill and then you see a lot of serious stuff that gets hooked onto it and it looks like a Christmas tree, but it’s not something that’s exciting; it is something that can be very, very, dangerous,” said State Senator Joe Schiavoni. “Often times they’re bills that the majority wants to pass but they don’t want to give ample time for people to come down here and testify because they know there’s gonna be a lot of vocal opposition.”
A bill that saw a lot of opposition Tuesday as it was given its first hearing was House Bill 53.
The bill is a public sector right to work bill, and its sponsor State Representative John Becker is unabashed about that and his hopes for it to pass.
Becker says his bill shouldn’t be controversial anymore as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Janus case from earlier this summer. It ruled that public employees could not be forced to join a union.
Becker says he actually opposes what the Supreme Court did. He believes the court overstepped its bounds and that the issue should have been left up to each individual state to decide.
With that said, he would like to see his bill passed in the next six weeks because he says it does very little but codifies the Supreme Court ruling into state law.
Opponents of the bill say it is the first step toward busting unions and pushing right to work legislation onto private sector jobs, in addition to be a danger to public sector employees who may see lower wages and fewer workplace protections from both physical and financial dangers.
The bill does add an appropriation to the state budget to pay for literature explaining worker’s rights, opponents believe it would be used to create anti-union propaganda.
Becker says he is not real optimistic about the bill’s chances to pass this session, however, he plans to reintroduce it next session if it fails to pass in the next six weeks.
Another bill that was getting its first hearing in front of House lawmakers Tuesday was one of the two Reagan Tokes Act Bills that passed the Senate.
This bill, which deals with indefinite sentencing, is half-way through its legislative journey. However, its path to the governor’s desk has fewer obstacles.
Because the bill had a companion bill already being worked on in the House, lawmakers in the committee are already familiar with its concepts.
Sponsors of the bill are confident both halves of the Reagan Tokes Act will pass by the end of the year and make it to the governor for his signature before he leaves office.
There were 58 other bills worked on by lawmakers Tuesday, for many of those sponsored by a Democrat it was the first time they were being heard by the GOP controlled legislature, and it will also likely be the last time those bills are heard this session.
Because the legislature has a rule that every bill must get a first hearing, unless its sponsor agrees to waive that benefit, it has become common practice by the party in power to put off hearing bills the majority party has no interest in passing until the last few weeks of the session.
It is also a time when some of the most controversial bills see the light of day. Protected from any negative fallout for passing or even pursuing a controversial bill, many lawmakers are insulated for the next few years having just won their seat in the November General Election.
Wednesday, lawmakers in the House of Representatives will vote on the floor of the House whether to pass a Stand Your Ground Bill.
Democrats say they expect the Republican-controlled legislature to attempt to pass pro-life anti-abortion bills before the end of the session as well.