Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Legislative Update - Week of May 26

HB 350, Student Poll-Worker Bill

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Wolpert (R - Hilliard), HB 350 saw an abrupt change to the "meat" of the legislation. After briefly stalling in the Senate State and Local Government Committee, the bill was altered substantially to ensure passage by removing college students from those who could work as election poll workers. A significant number of the committee members were worried that allowing college students to work as election poll workers in their school-county, as well as their home county, would be grounds for expansion and would allow ANY Ohio citizen from ANY county to work in ANY county as a poll worker. They believed this could lead to election fraud.

As the bill currently stands, only the provisions permitting high school students to work as election poll workers remains in the bill. Given the opposition of the committee’s chair and several senators, the bill is unlikely to pass out of the legislature this session with an expanded college student eligibility, even if it were conferenced with the House version. AICUO would be pleased to see this issue revisited in a future General Assembly and will work with any sponsor on the matter.


HB 562, Capital Budget Bill

Having passed differing versions of a bill incorporating the state’s two-year capital budget and revisions to biennial appropriations, the Ohio House and Senate now must appoint a conference committee to agree on a single bill for each house to approve before it can be submitted to the governor.

Objecting to Senate changes, in particular language regarding local government restructuring and reform, the House refused to concur on Senate changes today, sending the bill into conference. The non-concurrence vote came as the House neared the end of a busy Thursday calendar. Senate President Bill Harris (R-Ashland) had hoped to avoid a conference and wrap up the spring session by the end of this week, but the House nonconcurrence vote will force additional sessions to deal with this major legislation. Aside from a tentative Friday session set for the House, the next scheduled “if-needed” session date for both chambers is June 10.

The House version passed last week with some provisions added by the House facing a threatene d veto by Gov. Ted Strickland. As enacted in the House, HB 562 has only a few relevant provisions that affect independent colleges, which are summarized below. (The numbers in parentheses refer to the section numbers of the bill)

1. Nursing Diploma Programs Added to OCOG (3333.122(A)(1)(c)(iii)). Nursing diploma programs are designated as eligible institutions under the Ohio College Opportunity Grant program.

2. Seniors to Sophomores (3365.15). The Seniors to Sophomores program, "shall permit nonpublic school students to participate." In this context (the language is included in the existing Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program authorizing language), a "nonpublic school" is a private secondary school. In effect, the chancellor will be required to permit private secondary school participation in the Seniors to Sophomores program in the future.

3. Physician and Dentist Loan Repayment Program (3702.74 through 3702.95). Administration of the Physician and Dentist Loan Repayment programs was transferred from the Ohio Board of Regents to the Ohio Department of Health.
The bill was called up for a floor vote last Thursday evening in the House and picked up about a dozen amendments before clearing the House. The final House floor vote was 94-2 with Republican members Tom Brinkman (Cincinnati) and Diana Fessler (New Carlisle) voting in opposition. Gov. Strickland vowed to veto some provisions, primarily those that reversed his proposed budget cuts to agencies and various programs. A handful of these provisions were reversed by the Senate Finance Committee via an omnibus amendment. Last evening the Senate passed their version of the bill, including the removal of local government reform, and mandated divestment of Iran and Sudan holdings within the Ohio Police & Fire pension fund, both are provisions the House added. The Senate passed the measure 32-0.

Senate President, Bill Harris, was hoping to avoid a conference committee and to wrap up the spring session by the end of this week, but the House refused to concur on Senate changes today, sending the bill into conference committee. They cited the main reason being the language regarding local government restructuring and reform. The non-concurrence vote came as the House neared the end of a busy Thursday calendar.

Aside from a tentative Friday session set for the House, the next scheduled “if-needed” session date for both chambers is June 10.


HB 347, Praxis III

HB 347 bill was placed on the legislative shelf recently, waiting on a response from the Ohio State Board of Education. Tuesday it was dusted off again.

The State Board of Education, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), and Education Standards Board (ESB) now officially support the bill as revised to include the removal of a district-by-district assessment system and replacing it with an ESB/ODE created assessment system for entry-level teachers. The three entities had initially opposed the as-introduced language. In addition, two amendments were adopted—to add the word "consistently" to guidelines used across the state, and to allow ESB and ODE to jointly develop teaching standards.

In the House Education Committee yesterday, a representative of ODE's Center of Teaching Excellence testified, stating that the revised version would develop a stronger connection and create a better assessment tool for entry-level teachers even though other states have all but fallen over each other to obtain new education graduates from Ohio colleges.

Witnesses consistently testified yesterday on the purported position of the higher education community on the issue, stating that approximately 2/3 of the colleges were in support and the remaining 1/3 are skeptical. However, higher education, including public and private 4-year institutions, has token representation in K-12 educational stakeholder groups that were cited in testimony, and has not participated in the development of the revised provisions.

Since the General Assembly is planning to begin summer recess this week, the bill will return to the shelf to await further consideration. Fortunately, AICUO expects that ODE will spend part of the summer working with independent and public colleges, as well as the K-12 community, to form an actual consensus on revised legislation.

—Dustin A. Holfinger