Ohio House Speaker Stephens Sets Legislative Priorities

Following several weeks without any measures being formally submitted with bill numbers, the Ohio House Speaker and his leadership team have announced their legislative priorities, which range from adjustments to property taxes, to adoption, to protecting the integrity of girls’ sports.

Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) was joined by his allied House Republicans as he listed 12 of the more than 50 bills that were assigned numbers and sent to committees as priorities. These bills ranged from changes to property and income taxes to an affordable housing tax credit, the “Backpack Bill” universal voucher program, and making certain that biological males cannot compete in female-only athletics.

Stephens’ priorities include:

House Bill 1 – To modify the law regarding property taxation and income tax rates.

House Bill 2 – To declare the intent of the General Assembly to direct state funds to projects across the state for economic growth and community development.

House Bill 3 – To formally state the General Assembly’s intention to authorize an affordable housing tax credit.

House Bill 4 – To declare the General Assembly’s intention to enact legislation regarding financial institutions and other businesses that conduct economic boycotts or discriminate against certain companies or customers based on certain factors.

House Bill 5 – To express the General Assembly’s intent to modernize the adoption process.

House Bill 6 – To enact the “Save Women’s Sports Act” to require schools, state institutions of higher education, and private colleges to designate separate single-sex teams and sports for each sex.

House Bill 7 – To express the General Assembly’s intent to support strong foundations for mothers and babies to address maternal and infant mortality and improve health and developmental outcomes, and to name this act the Strong Foundations Act.

House Bill 8 – To enact the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” to require public schools to adopt a policy on parental notification on student health and well-being and instructional materials with sexually explicit content.

House Bill 9 – To establish the “Grow Your Own Teacher Program”, to establish a loan repayment program for eligible teachers, to make changes to teacher licensing and professional development, and to make an appropriation.

House Bill 10 – To express the intent of the General Assembly to continue phasing in the school financing system established in H.B. 110 of the 134th General Assembly and, if practicable, fully phase it in.

House Bill 11 – To establish the “Backpack Scholarship Program” to begin operating for the 2023-2024 school year, to repeal the Educational Choice Scholarship Pilot Program and the Pilot Project Scholarship Program on July 1, 2024, and to make an appropriation.

House Bill 12 – To rename the Department of Education as the Department of Education and Workforce; to create the position of Director of Education and Workforce; and to reform the functions and responsibilities of the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

According to Stephens, although challenging to find priorities agreeable to all members he thinks this list points House Republicans in the right direction.

“As a priority legislation list, I think it’s important to note that when we have 12 of anything, it’s going to be hard to find that all 12 are agreeable to all members. But, I think it gives us a direction and focus to help us in where we’re going,” Stephens said.

State Representative Derek Merrin (R- Monclova Township) said he is ready to support Stephens on bills that align and advance conservative principles like House Bill 6.

“There’s a difference between introducing a bill and saying it’s a priority and actually bringing the bill to the floor. The bills we are excited about we are going to hold the speaker accountable,” Merrin said.

Merrin acknowledged that the priority list still lacks some things that Republicans have presented, such as a measure for healthcare price transparency and an ethics reform package.

“We’ve grown disappointed in the lack of activity in the house. Today, we were supposed to have a house session, that’s been cancelled,” Merrin said.

Merrin said the Republican House Caucus will be announcing their own list of priorities. “We have a super majority, and we don’t need any ambiguity,” Merrin said.

Republicans selected Merrin in November as the new speaker. Although the GOP caucus voted for Merrin as Speaker of the House in December, Stephen fought in collaboration with the Democrats to collect votes and garner a win.

Republicans held a caucus retreat two weeks ago, according to Stephens, where they discussed policy. Some Republicans claimed that since then, there had not been enough momentum.

“I think 64 members were there. We talked about policy issues and listened and tried to pull together the ideas of that caucus,” Stephens said.

“We went to Jason’s caucus yesterday in good faith effort, we invited them to this caucus, and they never showed up, so actions speak louder than words. We keep offering olive branches, we’re ready to work with them,” State Representative Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) said.

In total, 52 bills went to House committees on Wednesday, with meetings expected next week.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Jason Stephens” by Jason Stephens.





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