On April 17, the race begins.  The General Assembly will have only 17 days on which to adopt a variety of pieces of legislation that are projected to have a massive effect on the future of Ohioans.  This year’s slate of changes includes an unprecedented budget revision bill that includes significant revisions to all the various layers of last year’s HB153, two bills introduced to modify JobsOhio, concurrent bills legislating “The Cleveland Plan” with SB5 components, and a separate, extensive education bill modifying HB153 items while also introducing new ideas from the Kasich Administration.

17 days

House Bill 487:

First up is John Kasich’s mid-biennial review bill, a 2,771 page document that, according to the Governor, is intended to “further efforts to recreate a jobs-friendly climate in Ohio.”  Summarizing all 2,771 pages in a single paragraph is impossible, even for Kasich who details his ideas on the state website.  You’ll need to remember to ignore his “tax cut” proposal that including oil drilling as the House stripped that out before the original bill was completely off the printer.  HB487 is nearly as large as last year’s budget (3,490 pages) that was introduced on March 15 and finally delivered to the Governor on June 30 after 39 work days through two committees in the Ohio House and Senate.  So in spite of the fact that the Ohio legislature was fully expecting the budget bill last year, it still took them twice as many days as they have allotted on their calendar for the remainder of the current session.

Representative Ron Amstutz recognizes this dilemma and is planning on divvying up the work among various committees (allowing them to adopt the various components in rapid fashion with little to no input from stakeholders).  This was detailed in the news this past week.

When they return from break on April 17, House Republicans plan to take the wide-ranging, 2,771-page package of policy changes and split it into a number of separate bills — 11 has been mentioned but 10 was the most recent figure.

Amstutz, one of the state’s longest-serving lawmakers, has raised concerns about whether the wide-ranging nature of Kasich’s proposal violates the state constitutional requirement that a bill stick to a single subject. There also were questions about whether some parts of the bill would need more hearings and debate than others. (Columbus Dispatch, 4/6/12)

Ironically enough, House Bill 153 had its constitutionality questioned for its lack of focus on a single subject, but Amstutz had no problem with that last year.  This year, when time is tight, he’ll use that very argument to get this legislation on the fast track so he can get out of Columbus and spend the summer on his re-election campaign.  And by cutting up this bill among 10-11 committees they can consider the pieces concurrently, reducing the ability of Ohioans to follow the progress and communicate their concerns to their elected officials.  They don’t care about the stakeholders, they just want to move these changes through without have to deal with us inconvenient citizens and our opinions.

17 days

House Bill 489 & Senate Bill 314:

These identical, 228-page bills modifying Governor Kasich’s JobsOhio department have been introduced concurrently in order to expedite their approval.  By passing them through the House and Senate at the same time it serves to cut approval time in half by allowing the final two versions (if amended at all) to be combined by a joint committee instead of having to run completely through one body and then the next. As we discussed above, running these through two committees at the same time also restricts the time frame during which constituents can contact their legislators and provide public testimony to the committees (full-time jobs anyone?).  Among the various complexities of these bills, we identified and posted about a provision that would create a massive loophole for the Kasich Administration to exploit, and subsequently ignore, Ohio Public Records laws.  Kasich has been often criticized for avoiding any semblance of transparency in his actions and this legislation seeks to further legitimize his secretive practices.

17 days

Senate Bill 316:

And then we have 521 pages worth of education “reform” legislation from the mind of John Kasich.  We posted a detailed look at this legislation when it was first unveiled a couple of weeks ago (and a variety of its components).  The Senate has been on their Spring Break since that time so nothing about it has changed.  In addition to modifying some of the items adopted by HB153 last year (teacher retesting, school ranking system, and teacher evaluations–bye-bye collective bargaining), Kasich has introduced some new components including a poorly informed 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee and a new letter-grade system for schools and districts that he has claimed is designed to simplify understanding of how schools are performing.

Senate Bill 316 is an extremely significant piece of legislation for public school educators and parents alike.  And with the House and Senate on vacation through next week (when many teachers would be on their own Spring Breaks and available to lobby in Columbus) then scheduled to have this legislation passed as they dismiss for the summer before May 24th (while schools are still in session), they have effectively eliminated the prospect that professional educators will have their voices heard within the Statehouse walls regarding this bill.

17 days

Senate Bill 325 & House Bill 506

“The Cleveland Plan” takes form as legislation as two Democrats join with two Republicans to introduce Mayor Frank Jackson’s unresearched and arrogant plan to gain more authority over the educational landscape in Cleveland.  We just posted about Senator Nina Turner’s co-sponsorship of this bill yesterday and social media is abuzz with disappointment over her support of SB5-style provisions that will dismantle collective bargaining in the Cleveland Schools, opening the door for the legislation to be expanded across the state.  And while Turner is on record as hoping that the “fresh start” provision of the bill that eliminates collective bargaining is only a placeholder until replacement language can be worked out, the rushed timeline of the House and Senate paired with GOP domination gives us no reason to think that any such modification is forthcoming.

And just as we described earlier, these two bills were introduced concurrently in order to hasten their passage and minimize public input (i.e., teachers).

17 days

Does anyone think the legislature expects to listen to public testimony, debate the legislation in committees, craft thoughtful amendments, introduce the modified bills, and obtain input from constituents before taking these major reform bills to the chambers for passage?

It’s probably important that we also point out that they only have 17 days of work before leaving for summer break because the members of the House have to go home to begin their campaigns for re-election in November.  And that’s certainly more important than spending time listening to informed constituents’ input regarding these life-altering bills.

You’ve only got 17 days.  Get in touch.

Click here for contact information for members of the Ohio House of Representatives.

Click here for contact information for members of the Ohio Senate.

Below is the legislative calendar for the General Assembly:

 

Evangelize!
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  • Lorraine

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see anyway to stop this runaway train.  Contacting my “representatives” I can do, but what do I say? This article is as clear as mud.

  • Portia A. Boulger

     Please join us to stop this runaway train. We MUST have recall rights for state level elected officials.
    Please join us to help collect signatures for an initiative to amend the Ohio Constitution to include recall rights for state level elected officials.. https://www.facebook.com/groups/350082011709503/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=740014081 Paula Garfield

    Recall added as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution gves Ohio citizens the power to stop this type of pushed/rammed legislation…intersted in learning more? please go to Recall Protects us all…group page on facebook…the grassroots group is gathering signatures..and is in process of getting required signatures to add amendment to have power to recall/remove elected state officials who are not following the constituents who elected them, wishes…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=740014081 Paula Garfield

    GMTA…

  • gregmild

    Lorraine,

    F. Scott Fitzgerald is quoted as saying, “?”One should … be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”

    To not know how to stop a runaway train is understandable, but to not try is unforgivable.

    I apologize for not giving more concrete examples of things to say when contacting your legislators.  My target audience wasn’t necessarily beginners in this process, but more along the lines of those who have been involved in this effort to fight the horrible legislative changes since Kasich took office.  I’ll try and provide some talking points below, but ultimately I recommend reading as much as you can (all the blue links in the post lead to additional information about the individual topics), getting in touch with other groups such as your local union and We Are Ohio, and crafting a message that suits your personal believe structure on the specific legislation.  Additionally, spreading this information as widely as possible allows us to reach out to people who have expertise in the various areas and can broaden the base for providing informed feedback.

    Long term, the heavy inclusion of uninformed educational reform measures in the legislation is a major reason we want to be supporting the teachers around Ohio who are running for office.  By electing informed educators into the General Assembly, we can impart that knowledge into the discussions that occur at the State level with the goal to enact legitimate education models, as needed, that will serve to help teachers, students, and families in a constructive manner, not through the implementation of national rhetoric in ALEC-inspired bills (e.g., Huffman’s voucher bill).

    Again, nothing can replace your own reading of the various topics being debated at the Statehouse, but contacting your legislator to express concern and ask for an explanation from them is a good way to begin the dialogue.  Listen to what your legislator is saying about the changes (and the necessary reasons) and gauge that information about what you already know to be true.  That can be just the first of many conversations.

    For the various items that are on the schedule for the 17 days, I can’t provide entire conversations in this space, only some of the key philosophical viewpoints that our readers must then internalize and make their own.

    First, the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee — From a wide viewpoint, this requirement is an overreaching government mandate that enacts state-level control over local-school decision-making.  In essence, the Republicans frequently speak of putting control over local decisions in the hands of local governments (state funding discussions), and yet through this mandate the local school loses significant decision-making authority over enacting interventions at the early years for struggling readers.  Furthermore, the state has taken no steps to ascertain what interventions schools already have in place nor determine the financial impact of requiring new mandates.  Thus, the requirement by the state – by law – for local school districts to enact new programs also ends up being an unfunded mandate — a concern expressed by Ohio Senator Peggy Lehner (R), chair of the Senate Education Committee.  One final note about this component — the Kasich Administration has cited a report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation as the basis for adopting this provision.  If you read an earlier post of mine (and the AEC report), you’ll find that the report does not recommend retaining students and in fact offers a series of suggestions for correcting the problem.  You might choose to offer these recommendations to your legislator.

    “The Cleveland Schools Plan” is mostly undermined by its complete lack of research basis for any of its proposes reforms.  At no point in this process has the Mayor of Cleveland explained the proposal in terms of “why” these reforms were chosen nor “how” they will directly impact student learning in the Cleveland Schools.  Furthermore, the same authors of this existing plan authored the Cleveland Transformation Plan merely two years ago with no (apparent) success, though with no metrics in place to gauge either the effectiveness of that prior plan nor this current proposal, how is anyone to ever determine what components are effective or ineffective in order to make effective modifications to improve the system for the better?  Further, the plan has been crafted in isolation from teachers and parents, two groups that the proponents turn around and claim are vital to the district’s success in the future.  Crafting a proposal while excluding the two largest stakeholder groups goes against the believe that collaborative processes guarantee a high level of informed decision making and stakeholder buy-in, a recipe for disaster.  The proposal has no scientific basis for any of the reforms and ignored all input from the professionals running the schools every single day.  And by design, the lack of inclusion of a scientific review process will prevent us from ever knowing if any specific reform has resulted in a measurable outcome.

    JobsOhio isn’t my area of expertise, but there are those around the state who can provide greater details (again, if your legislator can’t explain it….).  This latest change could simply be a request to change this bill in order to maintain transparency for agencies funded through public dollars.  Transparency in government is a great talking point for the GOP until the light is shined on their activities.

    As far as Amstutz and the Finance bill(s), I find it to be extremely hypocritical that they will cut up this bill for their own convenience and personal schedules, but refused to divide up last years HB153 to avoid any possible changes (while they intentionally included components of SB5 according to Governor Kasich himself).  There are probably other opinions on this one, but my push would be to Amstutz to have him keep this bill together in a single package to allow it to be properly considered in its proper context and in a longer time frame.  This would allow everyone (legislators, stakeholders) more time to digest the full legislation and offer thoughtful and productive amendments.  Large-scale changes should not be hurried simply to accommodate the legislators’ desire to begin their campaigns early.

    I hope this helps a bit.  My biggest recommendation is to start by calling your legislator and asking questions.  Put it on them to be able to explain the need for the proposed changes and how the bill will impact you, your schools, your local community.  Call them regularly for updates and to express your thoughts/opinions and to ask them questions about what you read and heard.

    Over the past year I learned that our legislators are no more than regular people trying to do a job.  They may be good lawyers, accountants, business owners, or even career politicians, but they simply don’t know everything.  They’re listening to the advice of their partisan leaders and lobbyists.  

    YOU can be your own lobbyist by staying in continual contact with your legislator and urging them to stop rushing through these major decisions at the expense of Ohio’s current and future children.  Tell your legislator to SLOW DOWN and listen to you and other informed citizens before blindly adopted flawed legislation.

    Email them daily — twice a day — and find a group of friends who will commit to doing the same.  Share your emails and with one another and resend those, too.  When you have conversations with your legislator(s), send a recap of that information in email form back to them, including your friends.  This sharing of firsthand information and constant involvement is a major way that working Ohioans can compete with the full-time lobbyists and sources of funding for our elected officials.

    The train can be stopped if enough of us stand in front of it.

  • Dmoore2222

    A lot of them will be gone after November anyway. Then the Dems can start to repair the damages.

  • gregmild

    We’ll still have a GOP-dominated Senate.

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