September 2, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
69°F

Ohio Legislature sets record for inactivity

COLUMBUS — The just concluded two-year session of the Ohio Legislature, the first politically divided general assembly in 14 years, set a modern record for legislative inaction.

Only 58 bills became law during the 128th General Assembly, compared to an average of 247 bills during the previous 20 years. House lawmakers met only 52 times and Senate lawmakers only 58 times, compared to an average of about 83 times every session in previous years, the Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday.

Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, said it was the least productive two-year session he’s seen in his decade in Columbus.

One explanation may be the state’s first experience with divided chambers since term limits took effect 10 years ago and reduced lawmakers’ political experience.

Since the session opened in 2009, it was not uncommon to hear complaints that Republican leaders refused to engage in major policy discussions and that Democratic leaders didn’t understand how to negotiate.

When Democrats took control of the House for the first time in 2009, Speaker Armond Budish of Beachwood and Rep. Matthew Szollosi, the No. 2 Democrat, had a combined legislative experience of four years.

Senate Republicans had far more experience, with one exception: They weren’t used to dealing with a House controlled by Democrats.

Term limits, which hold lawmakers to eight years in office, make it tough for lawmakers to get to know each other, said Szollosi of Oregon in northwest Ohio.

“Without any real foundation of relationships, there is very little trust, and it’s reflected in the rather poor relationship you saw between the Senate and the House this term,” he said.

Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Cuyahoga Falls Republican, said Senate leadership told members that it was hard to communicate with House Democrats. But Coughlin said Republicans could also have done more.

“I would have preferred to be more proactive in defining a clear Senate/Republican agenda,” he said. “I think you do have to put out a program. We did not. We were reactionary.”