Gov. John Kasich signed so many bills last week that it was difficult to keep track. Some he even signed twice just for show.
Here are five things to know about the process and the legislation:
1. WHY SUCH A FLURRY?
The Republican-led state Legislature passed a pile of bills ahead of lawmakers’ summer break. With an election ahead this fall, it’s unlikely they’ll be called back to session for anything but the most urgent business until after Nov. 4. That leaves a lame-duck window of about six weeks when they return to conclude the business of the session. Kasich had time constraints in signing the bills he was delivered, including 27 this week.
2.WHY DID HE SIGN SOME TWICE?
Kasich chose to sign two of the most sweeping bills formally, and then ceremonially, in different parts of the state. It’s an election year, and the governor used the signings as an opportunity to promote some key accomplishments. One bill contained a package of tax exemptions and credits that will lower the tax bills of low- and middle-income Ohioans and small businesses. It also accelerated a planned statewide income-tax cut. Critics say the changes will have little real-world impact because of the rates and rules involved. The same bill contained a $10 million student mentoring program known as Community Connectors. So Kasich signed the bill at the Mid-Ohio Foodbank near Columbus, then again at an East Cleveland elementary school later in the week. He signed a midterm education bill privately Monday and again Wednesday during Buckeye Girls State.
3.WHAT DIDN’T THE GOVERNOR PROMOTE?
Kasich’s three line-item vetoes to the primary midterm budget bill were distributed without fanfare. One veto denied special tax breaks to private water corporations. One prevented school districts with state facilities grants from unilaterally altering construction agreements to lock in lower interest rates. The third blocked disclosure of state sales and use tax information to counties. Vetoes tend not to make supporters of the nixed provisions happy.
4.WHICH BILL HAS THE BEST BACKSTORY?
Probably Senate Bill 263, which requires the state tax commissioner to notify taxpayers of tax and fee overpayments and either refund or credit the cash. A spokesman says Ohio Tax Commissioner Joe Testa was stunned when he learned the state was sitting on $30 million that businesses had overpaid over the past four or five years and had never gotten back. The practice came to Testa’s attention after a state employee was caught skimming from the overpayment account, which essentially sat dormant for years, then, if unclaimed, was absorbed by the state. Under the new law, that will no longer happen.
5.WHAT ARE SOME IMMEDIATE EFFECTS OF THE BILLS?
One bill extends Ohio’s efforts to crack down on human trafficking. One puts a system in place for creating a list of in-demand jobs around Ohio. Another requires public high schools to publish an annual career decision guide. Other bills set new rules for controlling addictive prescription painkillers and for distribution and coverage of cancer drugs. Two bills lay out new strategies for reporting and studying what’s causing Ohio to be fourth in the nation in fetal and infant mortality.