Legislature Passes Budgets and Hemp Decriminalization Bill; Governor Issues 25 Vetoes

Government Relations

After failing to reach agreement on the state’s biennial operating budget (House Bill 166) by the constitutional deadline of June 30, the legislature finally passed House Bill 166 yesterday evening, Wednesday, July 17, the last day of the interim budget measure passed last month. As with the chambers’ original votes on the bill, there was significant bipartisan support for the budget. The Conference Committee reported the bill on a vote of 5-1, with Representative Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) casting the sole dissenting vote. The House of Representatives went on to support the bill by a vote of 75-17 and the Senate by a vote of 29-1.

Touted as the children’s budget bill, there were numerous measures introduced by Governor Mike DeWine that were embraced by the legislature to benefit children. The budget includes a significant increase in funding for education, with many of the dollars dedicated to wraparound services to address the “whole” child. There are new dollars to support foster children and kinship caregivers. The budget also saw the largest increase in need-based financial aid to Ohio college students in over a decade. Republicans, who have long pushed to reduce the personal income tax burden, agreed on a 4% across the board reduction to the rates, along with the collapsing of the brackets to five by eliminating the lowest two and maintained the small business income tax deduction, though the bill did eliminate the deduction for businesses that employ lawyers or lobbyists.

Democrats were generally supportive of the bill, while still voicing regret that the bill was not able to do more for education funding; the failure to come to a final conclusion on reforming the Academic Distress Commission process for struggling schools, instead imposing a moratorium on new commissions; the bill’s inclusion of additional funding for pregnancy crisis centers; the continued existence of “unnecessary” tax credits and deductions.

Governor DeWine signed the bill this morning and issued 25 vetoes. “I am proud that this budget will significantly impact the lives of Ohioans through its unprecedented investments," Gov. DeWine said in a statement. "It lays the groundwork for a better Ohio for generations to come. This budget will lead to healthier children, stronger families, safer communities, an enhanced workforce, and a more prosperous Ohio, while also providing significant tax relief for every Ohio taxpayer and regulatory relief for Ohio businesses.” Governor DeWine struck several Medicaid-related provisions, including a requirement for a single pharmacy benefits manager, and a per-pupil funding guarantee seen as unduly aiding wealthier districts. A full copy of the Governor’s veto message, outlining his reasoning for each veto, can be found on the Governor’s website at governor.ohio.gov.  

The appropriations and the temporary law language necessary to direct the use of the funds took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature. The remaining law changes will become effective in 90 days, unless there was language in the bill specifically directing a different effective date for a particular section.

In addition to passing the operating budget bill, the legislature passed a clean Bureau of Workers’ Compensation budget, House Bill 80. The legislature also passed Senate Bill 57, which decriminalizes hemp and hemp products and establishes a hemp cultivation licensing program. Finally, the Senate finalized and passed its version of House Bill 6, the state energy policy reform bill. It is now up to the House to concur in the Senate amendments to the bill or ask for a conference committee.

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