Lawmakers use state budget to micromanage



Ohio gives governors the power to veto specific parts of a budget without having to kill the entire shebang. Statehouse carnies guessed last week what items Gov. Mike DeWine might cut from Ohio’s newly passed two-year budget, which went into effect at midnight Wednesday.

After:Ohio lawmakers send budget with tax cuts and new school funding formula to Governor DeWine’s office

In the meantime, it’s fair to say that the leaders of the GOP-led General Assembly have earned the bragging rights of the budget.

GOP House chairman Robert Cupp and Ashtabula County Democrat, former Rep. John Patterson, of Jefferson, deserve special mention as architects of the Budget Fair Schools Funding Plan which – let’s cross paths with them fingers – really seems to solve a mess of decades.

All but one Senate Democrats voted “yes” on the budget – with the exception: Senator Teresa Fedor, of Toledo – and 23 of the 35 House Democrats voted “yes”. Among Democrats voting ‘no’: minority leader Emilia Sykes of Akron; Representatives Kristin Boggs, David Leland and Adam Miller, all of Columbus; and Richard Brown, of Canal Winchester.

A statement from the Ohio Democratic Party said the budget “includes several toxic provisions inserted by extreme Republicans who use the budget process to play politics with the welfare of Ohio workers.”

So, the Legislative Democrats who voted “yes” on the budget voted against their own constituents? (The only Republican in the House to vote “no” was Rep. Bill Dean, of Xenia, whose 74th District includes Mike DeWine’s homestead in Cedarville.)

Representative John Patterson, D-Jefferson, answers questions at a press conference in 2019. Behind him is Representative Robert Cupp

Particularly… curious… budget provision: DeWine allows Cupp and Senate Speaker Matt Huffman, both Republicans of Lima, to hire private lawyers rather than being represented by the Ohio attorney general if they intervene in legal proceedings concerning the constitutionality of a law or reconfigured legislative constituencies.

In the 1970s, Ohio asked the Board of Control to accept any payment to the late R. Brooke Alloway, a prominent private lawyer representing the government of the day. James A. Rhodes in litigation regarding the Kent State shooting. The budget just passed apparently doesn’t require a similar review of payments to lawyers Cupp or Huffman might hire.

And HB 110, like its predecessors, attempts to flout a key constitutional rule: According to the Non-Partisan Legislative Service Commission, the Ohio constitution, since before the Civil War, “requires that all laws of a general nature be met. apply uniformly throughout the state ”.

Simple English seems to escape Ohio lawmakers, recalling what Alice said in Wonderland: “The question is, can you make the words mean so many different things?

Humpty Dumpty’s response could well have been spoken inside the Statehouse: “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “who is to be the master – that’s it.”

So the Ohio budget masters, via a nifty budget rider, are once again attempting to micromanage the Mill Creek Metropolitan Park District in the Youngstown area.

The amendment does not say that, of course. Instead, the amendment “prohibits park districts in counties with populations between 220,000 and 240,000 … from using eminent domain to appropriate property for recreational trails,” reports the LSC.

Ideally, these population measures only define two of Ohio’s 88 counties – Lake (the fig leaf) and Mahoning (the target). Because of the “uniform law” rule, lawmakers cannot order, say, Cincinnati – and only Cincinnati – to do this and so. But lawmakers can attempt to do so by passing a law (it’s hypothetical) saying that all cities in Ohio that have a Major League Baseball team called the Reds must do “x”, “y” or “z”. It’s uniform, isn’t it? That doesn’t distinguish Cincinnati, does it?

Hey, such a law applies to any city ​​that fits this description, yes? This is the end game called for by the Mill Creek Park Budget Amendment. Of course, as Charles Dickens’ Mr Bumble puts it: “If the law presupposes it, the law is a donkey – an idiot. But Mr. Bumble was in England, not Ohio.

If using the Ohio budget to let the legislature get into a county controversy is okay, then what will stop lawmakers from trying to, say, micromanage Greene County’s parks and trails? in the home county of DeWine?

After:Metro Parks board members say Clear Creek mansion lease shows need for increased oversight

And while a questionable Franklin County Metro Parks lease, revealed by reporters at Dispatch, may require new state laws, they should apply to all subway park neighborhoods, not one.

It would be constitutional. What the budget bill tries to do in Youngstown is not.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University.

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