Today marks the official start of the term of Ohio’s new statewide officeholders, but the real work of the new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Treasurer and Auditor all start work in earnest tomorrow, after the conclusion of today’s swearing-in and inauguration festivities.
Today, Governor DeWine started his term by signing six executive orders as the first steps toward fulfilling campaign promises to focus on children’s and addiction issues. Among them was the continuation of a last-minute order by Gov. Kasich to restore anti-discrimination protections for state workers based on gender identity, which DeWine paired with similar protections for workers based on their pregnancy and parenting status. It is a welcome move that we hope will be followed by legislation to ensure all Ohioans are eligible for the same treatment.
The Legislature will be remain for a few more weeks as caucuses hold private retreats to hammer out their legislative priorities and, in the case of the House, elect the rest of the leadership team now that a Speaker has been selected. We expect to see committees starting work around the last week of January in the Senate, and by early February in the House.
Further on the horizon, watch for the introduction of the two-year Transportation and Workers’ Compensation Budgets in mid-February, followed by DeWine’s two-year executive budget proposal, due to be introduced by March 15. While some of DeWine’s priorities can get underway without a budget, much of his agenda requires legislation and/or funding from the Legislature, so those budget packages will be closely watched by the Administration and its allies.
One thing that will be interesting to see is how well the new DeWine administration works with the General Assembly. In 2009, Governor Strickland saw the Democratic majority in the House introduce his two-year budget and comprehensive school funding plan as their first bill of the term. Similarly, in 2011, Republican leaders named the bill implementing Governor Kasich’s signature JobsOhio program House Bill 1, but the practice fell to the wayside as relations became strained. Next month, when the House and Senate start introducing bills, we will immediately see whether the Legislature prioritizes the implementation of DeWine’s agenda or their own.
It’s a bit early to know what that agenda will look like, but in the Senate, President Obhof has already signed that reforming our drug laws will be priority for the chamber in the new session. We have also seen indications that the General Assembly will take up work on issues around guns, eSchool funding, sports gambling and citizen ballot measures. It’s too early to know what policies newly-elected House Speaker Larry Householder will prioritize, but we’ll do our best to keep you posted.