The following article was originally published in the Ohio Capital Journal and published on News5Cleveland.com under a content-sharing agreement.
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Despite a political dead cat bounce late last week, the Ohio House’s war on vaccine mandates ended in stalemate, if not a humble retreat.
After eight hearings on two versions of legislation to ban vaccine mandates, the requisite support failed to materialize and Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Ohio, said Wednesday it’s time to move on. Health Committee Chairman Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, tried to go rogue and host a ninth hearing regardless, but Cupp ordered him to stand down Thursday evening.
With the dust settled, where the Ohio House goes for the next few months is anything but clear. Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Cupp took questions on what’s to come but offered few decisive answers.
Here are some recent examples of some issues we’ve been following:
Statute of limitations for sexual abuse
Two top House Republicans admitted recently they planned to fail on legislation that would allow victims of Ohio State University sports physician Richard Strauss to successfully bring a lawsuit against the university for ignoring and covering up Strauss’ conduct.
House Democrats have since renewed efforts to extend the criminal and civil statutes of limitation, close a loophole that shields men from prosecution who rape their spouses, and lift punitive damage caps for victims.
Cupp, when asked specifically about the statute of limitations issue, indicated hazy support.
“I think that’s an issue that deserves some consideration,” he said. “Not necessarily the statute of limitations but the issue. So there will be some discussions about what might be appropriate, if anything.”
He declined a request to clarify what ‘issue’ he was referring to.
Legislation that’s now at the center of a political bribery scandal and prosecution codified and extended bailouts, funded Ohio’s residential and industrial electricity customers, to prop up two failing coal plants: one in Ohio and one in Indiana.
Bipartisan pushes in the House and Senate to repeal the bailouts, which have cost ratepayers about $166 million over 18 months, have gone nowhere.
Cupp indicated that’s not likely to change.
“I really don’t think there’s support to do that,” he said. “It’s a much more complicated issue than is being reported with multiple states involved in this, and most states have a regulatory system so their public utilities that are part of this are already getting reimbursed.”
Industry players are trying to force the General Assembly’s hand via a citizen-petition mechanism that gives the legislature a chance to pass a recreational marijuana bill and puts the matter directly before voters on the ballot if lawmakers fail.
Two rank-and-file Republicans held a press conference last week unveiling their own effort to get ahead of the petition effort and legalize marijuana on their own terms.
Cupp poured cold water on that ember.
“I’m quite skeptical that that’s a good thing for Ohioans in terms of public safety on the highway and a number of other things, but like any legislation, it will get some consideration, probably some hearings, some input from the public and other interested parties,” he said.
When asked about the petition effort specifically, he ducked.
“I think that’s a question for the future,” he said.
Scrapping training requirements for concealed carry?
The House moved forward with hearings last week on legislation to do away with Ohio’s permitting process to carry concealed weapons. A committee chairman said a vote could be looming. Cupp declined to share his personal thoughts on the issue.
“There is some support for that in the House,” he said. “So it’s an issue that deserves consideration and will get consideration.”
So what does Cupp want?
When asked this very question, he offered three items.
For one: sports betting. The Ohio Senate passed a sports betting bill in June that the House hasn’t yet granted a single committee hearing. The Senate then took a House-passed bill regarding identification cards for veterans and essentially transformed it into a sports betting bill and passed it.
Earlier this month, both chambers appointed members for a conference committee between the two chambers to hash out their differences on the House-passed bill.
“We would like to get sports betting done, that’s an issue that has been around,” he said. “There’s general consensus on that, with a few loose ends.”
Secondly, he cited “criminal justice” without further detail.
Thirdly, he offered redistricting. At this point, outside groups have filed lawsuits challenging state House and Senate redistricting maps that disproportionately favor Republicans. Meanwhile, the Ohio redistricting commission has until the end of the month to pass maps establishing congressional district lines. If they fail to do so, the matter goes before the General Assembly. If lawmakers can’t put together a supermajority with significant Democratic buy-in, the maps will only last for four years.
“Working on the maps is being done, so probably in the near future,” he said, when asked when the commission will meet.