Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Legislative Wrap Up

Capital Budget Passed and Sent to Governor

A bill incorporating the state’s two-year capital budget and revisions to biennial appropriations passed the Ohio House last night, with some provisions added by the House facing a threatened veto by Gov. Ted Strickland.As enacted in the evening session yesterday, H.B. 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 on the evening of May 22 and picked up a dozen or so rider amendments before clearing the House. Governor Strickland vowed to veto some provisions, mainly those that reversed his proposed budget cuts to agencies and various programs. The final floor vote was 94-2 with Republican members, Tom Brinkman (Cincinnati) and Diana Fessler (New Carlisle) voting in opposition.

The Senate passed their amended version 32-0 on May 28 after the House changes were removed, to ensure being signed by Governor Strickland. The insisted on their changes as the bill was sent back to the House for concurrence. The House, in turn, decided to not concur, making the rumors true and sending the bill to conference committee.

Conferees were named on June 5 with the House appointing Reps. Hottinger, Jones & Skindell, and the Senate naming Sens. Carey, Niehaus & Cafaro to hash out the differences. The process did not take long, as expected, and was passed out of the Senate on June 10 by a unanimous, 33-0 vote. The House had three members voting in the negative on the same day, Reps. Brinkman, Daniels, and Fessler.

The Capital Budget Bill, the last legislative effort of the General Assembly before summer recess was sent to the Governor yesterday for his signature.

Because of the bill's length, it is possible that there are other provisions that indirectly affect our campuses. If you have any questions about the legislation, please contact Todd Jones or Dustin Holfinger at (614) 228-2196.

Economic Stimulus Bill

The bipartisan economic stimulus bill (HB 554) passed out of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee on Wednesday afternoon (May 21) by a vote of 31-0. The Committee heard no testimony and accepted amendments pertaining to the Historical Preservation Tax Credit and the method which the Third Frontier dollars will be apportioned and by whom.

In addition, Democrats objected to another amendment, offered by Rep. Hottinger, that puts a name – “Choose Ohio First” – on the $250 million higher education internship and co-op component of the package. Saying the name was too similar to the Choose Ohio First Scholarship program that is focused on the “STEM” disciplines, all of the minority party members of the committee voted against the change. Chairman Hottinger maintained there was no requirement that the matching money go toward STEM initiatives, despite the similar names.

The bill presents a level playing field for all colleges seeking funds. The bill includes a provision to invest $250 million into a project to develop internships and co-op programs, and to retain students after graduation. The dollars in this portion of the bill are a one-to-one match to those put up by grantees. The higher education provisions aim to encourage partnerships to build co-op relationships for students between colleges and universities and the private sector. Independent colleges may apply for grants as lead grantee in collaboration with public institutions.

The Senate Finance Committee began hearings on the bill the very next week and unanimously voted it out with only a few changes, none to higher education provisions, on Tuesday (May 27).

The Senate's changes to the bill were concurred upon by the Lower Chamber on the 29th and Governor Strickland signed the bill into law on June 12th with an immediate effective date.

—Dustin A. Holfinger