Chris Oaks spoke with state Sen. Cliff Hite, R-Findlay.
Q: The past month saw a very busy lame-duck session at the Ohio Statehouse. But that’s not unusual, is it?
A: Not at all. In fact, this one wasn’t as crazy as some others I’ve seen in my time in the Legislature. And we did get a lot done, including more efforts to address the opiate epidemic, my meningitis bill got passed, as did the sudden cardiac arrest bill. We did a roadway safety bill for bikers, a measure on clean drinking water, we addressed job hazards for firefighters, and we finally passed Senate Bill 3 to provide some regulatory relief for school districts. That was my bill from way back at the beginning of the year, which finally got a vote at 3:16 in the morning.
Q: By far, though, the legislation that got the most attention were two items dealing with abortion. The heartbeat bill and a separate 20-week ban. There has been some criticism that sneaking the heartbeat bill in as a last-minute amendment to existing legislation, without any discussion or comment, was improper — especially for an issue that is so significant.
A: Well, that bill has been discussed and debated for five years. It’s been vetted, everyone knew it was out there, and I don’t think anyone has changed their minds on it. The bill it was inserted into dealt with health services for families and children in need, so it wasn’t totally unrelated. The argument about the way it was done is a good point, but the reality is that if you want to get it done, that’s often the way you have to do it.
Q: With respect to the timing of the measure, obviously it had to do with anticipation of the coming change of leadership in Washington. Aside from that issue specifically, how much does a new administration affect what happens with the legislative agenda at the state level?
A: A great deal. For example, the federal government talks about doing away with the Affordable Care Act, but we don’t know what the alternative will be. What’s going to happen to those people who are covered through the exchange, or through an expanded Medicaid program? We have to figure that out, because we don’t want them uninsured or uninsurable. The federal government may take the lead, but it will have to be implemented at the state level. Another case would be changes in energy policy priorities which may mean altering our state approach. The new administration may step in and say what we’re doing doesn’t fit with their new requirements, and we’ll have to start all over on our policy. So, it impacts us a great deal and it will be a challenge, but we’re used to that.
Q: With all that said, what do you anticipate will be on the legislative agenda for the next general assembly?
A: Well, your guess is as good as mine. The budget will be a big part of it. The governor will present his budget by February, and that will be a big part of it. Revenues have not been as strong as we thought, and we have a little bit of a deficit. I don’t have the exact number — it’s not $8 billion like it was in 2010, but it’s a deficit nonetheless. There’s a lot of work that will have to be done, and a lot of us are going to have to say no to a lot of people who want money. And I’m telling you right now, it’s going to be a tough year.
Q: And for you personally, what will be your top agenda items in the new year?
A: I have three bills that did not get finished this year that I plan to reintroduce. One was a police chiefs training bill, a rural jobs act, and one that dealt with the CAUV land-use tax on farmers. So, while the House is working on the budget, I’ll be starting over to push those bills again.
“Good Mornings!” with Chris Oaks airs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekdays on WFIN, 1330 kHz. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 419-422-4545.