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Shifting now from election to budget, marijuana and lame duck

by Marc Kovac Capital Bureau Chief Published: November 13, 2016 12:00 AM

COLUMBUS -- It shouldn't be much longer before we put the 2016 Election to bed and focus on other things.

Let's not think about possible legal challenges to the outcome, tie votes, court intervention, outright revolution etc.

Instead, let's direct our thoughts to the other stuff that'll be points of collaboration and contention at the Ohio Statehouse in days and weeks to come, like:

Unemployment Compensation: Lawmakers will get back to work at over the next few weeks, emphasis on "few."

Realistically, there aren't that many sessions scheduled before this general assembly heads to greener pastures.

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But it's the lame duck session, where all sorts of craziness can and probably will ensue. And there are some hot-button issues that could be addressed.

Unemployment compensation comes to quickly to mind. A bill, HB 394, was working its way through the system before stalling, and there are ample indications that lawmakers intend to do something on this issue post haste.

Among other provisions, HB 394 called for the freezing of unemployment benefit amounts and a reduction in the maximum number of weeks eligible residents could receive compensation, based on unemployment rates.

The bill also would require workers to have earned wages in at least three of four calendar quarters in order to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Backers have said such changes are needed to ensure the future solvency of the jobless assistance program.

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But the bill was not popular with union groups and advocates for the needy, who said the proposed law changes would hurt Ohioans trying to get back on their feet after losing their jobs through no fault of their own.

Lawmakers have been working to revamp HB 394, and a bill could be forthcoming after the election.

Charter Schools: Another issue that remains at the forefront is charter school reform, particularly following a summer that included a public fight between state education officials and the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, commonly known as ECOT, over student attendance records.

Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), continue to push for further charter reform to ensure that community schools receiving state funding are actually using those proceeds to educate kids.

It's difficult to imagine a lame duck session where charter school reform isn't at least mentioned.

Marijuana: A new state panel had its first meeting this month to consider the rules that will regulate the use of medical marijuana in Ohio.

We're still months away from cultivators obtaining licenses and consumers tapping into supplies of the drug to deal with specified medical conditions. But medical marijuana will be a focus on conversation over the next two years -- increasingly so as regulations are developed and implemented.

Budget: Gov. John Kasich has one more biennial budget to get through the legislative process.

The two-year spending plan will dominate the first six months of 2017. The governor will want some sort of legacy plan to solidify the work of his administration and set the stage for a potential 2020 presidential run.

Tax cuts, education reform and other policy changes likely are in the works and will provide sufficient diversion from the 2016 Election for Statehouse dwellers.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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