Expect a quiet week at the Statehouse as lawmakers begin the first of two weeks of Spring Break. No session of the House or Senate is scheduled and only a handful of committees are working. Two issues will drive the week: the State Budget and a new Energy reform plan which many are calling a bailout of Ohio’s nuclear energy industry
Last week House Speaker Larry Householder unveiled a new plan to assess fees on Ohio utility customers’ monthly bills to support emission-free energy generation, a proposal that would raise approximately $300 million per year, the bulk of which would flow to Ohio’s nuclear power plants. The plan would replace current assessments on utility bills to fund renewable energy generation and efficiency programs, and has been panned by environmental and renewable energy advocates who say it would remove incentives to move to renewable and clean energy sources and could even subsidize coal power plants.
The first draft of the plan (House Bill 6) will receive its first two hearings in the House Energy and Natural Resources committee and its Energy Generation Subcommittee this week. See “Committees Hearings to Watch,” below, for details.
Over this first week of Spring Break, Speaker Householder is expected to work with House Finance Chairman, Scott Oelslager, to sort through hundreds of amendments from members to the state’s two-year operating budget (HB166). House changes to the proposal, which currently reflects priorities of the DeWine administration, are expected to be unveiled at next week’s hearings of the House Finance Committee in the form of a substitute bill.
In the sub bill, we expect to see dozens, if not hundreds of amendments which could include changes to school funding, taxation, health policy, support for higher education and more. Next week we’ll share the highlights of these proposals, which will be vetted in several days of hearings before going to the full House for a vote the week of April 29.
Last week, as the Ohio legislature enacted an unconstitutional 6-week abortion ban, which will be challenged in courts, the war on abortion rights continues on multiple fronts. As we noted last week, newly-introduced House Bill 182 (Becker) would ban private insurance coverage of so-called “non-therapeutic” abortion, eliminate exceptions for rape and incest and redefine “non-thereaeutic” abortion to include any contraception that prevents implantation of a fertilized egg. Also last week, HB90 (Antani) was amended to require an anti-abortion curriculum in Ohio’s 3rd through 12th-grade classrooms and the House held its first hearing on SB27 (Uecker), to require the burial or cremation of aborted fetal remains.
Any of these anti-abortion measures could find their way into the state budget (HB166), a must-pass bill that is a popular target of unrelated policy changes. We’ll need to be vigilant and demand public hearings before anything is passed into law.