Statehouse Preview: Week of January 21

House Democrats To Elect Leadership Team

House Democrats have a leadership vote scheduled Wednesday to finalize their leadership team for the 133rd General Assembly, replacing members loyal to former Speaker Ryan Smith with those who voted with the majority of the Democratic caucus for returning Speaker Larry Householder. Emilia Sykes of Akron is the apparent pick for House Minority Leader and is set to be joined on the leadership team by Columbus’s Kristin Boggs, Cleveland’s Kent Smith and Toledo freshman legislator (and former Mayor) Paula Hicks Hudson.

Speaker Householder Appoints Group to Revise House Processes

We’re also keeping an eye on a new bipartisan panel appointed by Speaker Householder to recommend changes to the rules for how the chamber operates. Some of the preliminary draft rules (changed marked in underlined/strikethrough text) reflect promises made by Householder to Democrats whose votes put him into power.

Proposed Changes Include:

  • Three new subcommittees on criminal justice, K-12 education and energy generation to be co-chaired by one Republican and one Democrat
  • Amendments cannot be tabled (set aside) in committee
  • Written analysis of proposed substitute bills will be published before committee consideration

Some additional changes we’d like to see include:

We’d like to see these rules go much further to make the business of the legislature more open, transparent and inclusive.

  • Stop requiring public testimony to be submitted in writing 24 hours in advance
  • Publish the Rules agenda 24 hours in advance of Rules and Reference committee meetings, so the bills leadership proposes putting up for a floor vote are known to all well in advance
  • Require all committee hearings to be broadcast and archived online

The House Special Committee on Rules is chaired by Jamie Callender. Also on the committee are Representatives Emilia Sykes, Jay EdwardsNiraj AntaniJim ButlerTim SchafferScott OelslagerJack Cera and David Leland. If you have suggestions for how the House could improve the legislative process to make it more accessible to citizen advocates, we recommend contacting committee members to share your thoughts.

Looking Ahead: State Transportation Budget Coming Soon

The first major piece of must-pass legislation in the new General Assembly will likely be the state’s two-year transportation budget. Typically introduced by the Governor’s administration in the first half of February, this expansive legislation directs the spending of motor fuel taxes and fees and funds the budgets for the Departments of Transportation and Public Safety. It will also include numerous policy changes at those and other departments funded by motor vehicle fees and taxes. By law, the bill must be passed and signed by the Governor by March 31, an extremely short window of time for a proposal of this magnitude.

In a memo penned last fall, the outgoing Kasich administration noted that for the next two years there is no funding available for any new transportation construction projectsNone. In 2013, the legislature passed a stopgap measure to borrow against future Turnpike tolls to fund road construction, but that temporary funding has run out. Now, with fuel consumption on the decline, the Department can only pay for the ongoing maintenance of existing infrastructure, but the coffers are dry for any new construction or capacity projects.

Here’s What We’ll Be Watching In The Transportation Budget:

Does the DeWine administration propose a funding fix – short or long-term — for transportation infrastructure? Will the GOP-dominated legislature go along with it? Will pedestrian and bike infrastructure and safe routes to school be a priority for the new administration? How will the funding needs of local transit systems be addressed-if at all-by any new funding fix? Will automatic voter registration be in the mix at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles?