Senate Committee Moves Budget after Adopting Omnibus Amendment

The upper chamber’s version of the budget is headed to the floor after the Senate Finance Committee voted along party lines to report out HB110 (Oelslager).

The committee accepted an omnibus amendment early on Tuesday afternoon, and returned later in the day to consider Democratic amendments. Republicans tabled all eight of the minority party’s proposals.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said some of the Democratic amendments might end up in the final version of the bill, but he and other Senate GOP leaders needed to analyze them further. Ranking Member Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) praised Dolan for his handling of the budget process, and said he looked forward to continuing to work with him.

The omnibus amendment made a number of changes, including the following:

- Provides $50 million in federal grants in FY22 for reduced child care co-pays.

- Clarifies that hero pay for child care workers previously appropriated in SB109 (Manning-Rulli) is not affected by the bill’s restrictions on pandemic funding for child care staff.

- Provides an additional $10 million per fiscal year for public children services agencies in Ohio.

- Appropriates $11 million in FY22 and $12 million in FY23 for the Ohio Maritime Assistance Program to issue grants.

- Increases state legal defense services by $600,000 in FY22 and $900,000 in FY23.

- Increases the General Revenue Fund (GRF) appropriation to rape crisis centers by $2.7 million in FY22, making it a total of $10 million for the fiscal year.

Other amendment highlights and the full text of the amendment can be found at www.hannah.com>Breaking News.

The omnibus amendment also included provisions making it more difficult for doctors to work with ambulatory surgical facilities (ASFs), such as abortion clinics.

If the ASF has a variance from a written transfer agreement, the consulting doctor’s hospital must be within 25 miles of the ASF. Additionally, the consulting physician cannot teach at or be compensated by a medical school, state hospital or other public institution. An ASF with an existing variance must demonstrate compliance with these new requirements within 90 days of the provisions’ effective date or its variance will be rescinded.

“Republicans in the Ohio Senate have yet again hijacked the budget process to further their anti-abortion agenda by adding an amendment that would add even more medically-unnecessary licensing restrictions on abortion providers,” NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director Kellie Copeland said in a news release.

“Abortion providers are a critical part of Ohio’s medical community. Across the state, trusted medical providers work hand in hand with abortion clinics, medical schools and hospitals to ensure patients get access to comprehensive reproductive health care they deserve,” she continued. “This amendment is about stigmatizing and isolating abortion providers. Let’s be clear about what this amendment does -- closes the doors to doctors in an effort to close the door to patients. No patient has even been helped by a closed door. A clear majority of Ohioans support access to safe and legal abortion care, and do not support this restriction.”

In addition to the new abortion restriction, the budget also includes language prohibiting a school district from teaching a student about venereal disease or other sexual education topics not included in continuing law unless the district receives written permission from a parent or guardian. Schools would be required to notify all parents of the sex ed course, and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) would be required to conduct an annual audit of districts to ensure compliance.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio (PPAO) Vice President of Government Affairs and Public Advocacy Lauren Blauvelt-Copelin criticized the proposed restrictions on abortion and sex ed.

“Year in and year out, the budget is used as a personal vehicle for legislators to pack in their personal priorities, instead of facing an up-or-down vote,” Blauvelt-Copelin said. “So much of this budget is out of step with everyday Ohioans. Parents across the state want their kids to have the best possible sexual health education, and this budget threatens that. The majority of Ohioans support access to abortion, and the budget threatens that too. This is all on top of millions of dollars of funding for fake abortion clinics that lie to people about their options. We won’t let this happen without a fight.”

Other education-related changes include more funding for after school programs and language helping school districts exit academic distress commissions. (See separate story, this issue.)

The omnibus amendment also included language creating legislative oversight of Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), which provides the state’s protection and advocacy (P&A) system for people with disabilities. Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield) has been seeking the change.(See The Hannah Report, 5/17/21.)

The amendment would require the Senate president and the House speaker to establish a joint committee to examine the organization’s activities, and to submit a report every two years.

In a statement, DRO Executive Director Kerstin Sjoberg urged lawmakers to remove the amendment.

“The Ohio Senate is voting on an amendment in the budget bill that will jeopardize federal funding for Ohio agencies serving people with disabilities. This amendment would require DRO, a nonprofit organization that receives no state dollars, to be evaluated every two years by a joint legislative oversight committee,” Sjoberg said. “This would not only take time and resources away from DRO’s advocacy work for Ohioans with disabilities, but it violates federal law by interfering with the independence of a federally-authorized P&A program for people with disabilities. Every state and territory has a P&A, but this would make Ohio the only state in the country with this type of legislative oversight.”


Story originally published in The Hannah Report on June 8, 2021.  Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.