COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — With a two-year state budget behind them, Ohio lawmakers are expected to turn their attention this month to other hefty policy debates in the last half of their session.
The General Assembly will no doubt weigh the potential political impact of their actions as they decide what proposals to advance in the election year.
The House and Senate plan to return to the Statehouse for voting sessions in mid- to late January. Here’s a look at the topics before them in 2016:
Legislative leaders are working toward a compromise on legislation to divert public money, mostly federal dollars, away from Planned Parenthood. The measure targets taxpayer money the organization receives through grant programs for infant mortality, HIV testing, breast and cervical cancer screenings. While it doesn’t specifically name Planned Parenthood, the bill would restrict such grant funds from going to providers that perform or promote abortions.
Planned Parenthood also is at the center of the debate behind proposed regulations for fetal tissue disposal after an investigation by the state attorney general. Under legislation introduced in each chamber, women getting abortions would be asked to decide in writing whether their fetal remains should be buried or cremated. The decisions would be documented, and the abortion provider would pay for it. Other pending abortion-related proposals include legislation to prohibit the procedure after the 20-week mark and another to ban abortions in cases where a test or diagnosis indicates Down syndrome.
While Ohioans rejected a broad ballot initiative last fall that sought to legalize pot for medical and recreational use, polls suggest voters back legal medical marijuana. State lawmakers are exploring potential ways to address the issue. Leaders of the Republican majorities in the House and Senate say there’s support in their caucuses for medical marijuana, and each has tapped members to gather information for the Legislature to consider. A pot legalization question also could appear on the 2016 ballot.
Senate President Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, says he wants to examine Ohio’s boards and commissions that regulate cosmetology, medicine, dentistry and other industries after the U.S. Supreme Court said some panels could be violating antitrust laws. The concern is that boards made up of practicing professionals could be trying to put competitors out of business through cease-and-desist letters and other actions.
With a two-year freeze on renewable-energy mandates coming to a close, lawmakers will weigh the government requirements for the use of solar, wind and other forms of energy by Ohio power companies. A deal had suspended the phase-in of Ohio’s law while lawmakers studied the issue. The law requires utilities to generate 25 percent of electricity from alternative and advanced sources by 2025 and to meet certain energy efficiency targets. If legislators fail to act, the law would resume as planned in 2017. Gov. John Kasich said he doesn’t want to go back to the 25 percent mandate and urged lawmakers to strike a balance between environmental and employment concerns as they work toward compromise.
A House panel is reviewing right-to-work legislation that would bar private employers from requiring workers to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment. But such proposals have not gained traction in Ohio since voters rejected union restrictions in 2011, and Kasich has said such legislation is not his priority. Support for congressional redistricting seems to be gaining steam. Recently, Kasich said he’ll work aggressively in the coming year to promote a system that creates more competitive maps and eliminates gerrymandering.