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The Statehouse News Bureau provides educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations.

Ohio House And Senate Trade Legislative Changes As Budget Deadline Looms

Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) [John Minchillo / AP]
Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima)

As the clock ticks down to the June 30 deadline to pass Ohio’s operating budget for the next two years, lawmakers are squaring off on a number of big issues in Columbus.

House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) spent Thursday navigating floor sessions, bill debates and negotiations for a final budget deal.

Both leaders said talks are going well and they’re happy with the progress being made. Huffman said among the discussions is what to do with the $3 billion surplus discovered in the Ohio budget.

The Senate’s budget plan already includes a 5 percent across-the-board income tax cut, which would the state $874 million. But Huffman said he would like to use the surplus funds to cut taxes even more.

“I think it’s a question of how those dollars can be used to broaden that tax cut at this point,” Huffman said. 

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has warned against using the surplus funds for tax cuts, saying that is a one-time infusion for federal COVID-19 relief and should either be saved or used for investment in things like infrastructure. 

Along with the budget, lawmakers have been working on getting other legislation passed before leaving for summer break. Among those measures is Senate Bill 187, a bill that would allow college athletes to receive compensation for their name, image, and likeness 

It received unanimous support in the Senate and passed a House committee nearly unanimously, as well. But a last-minute amendment Thursday added language from another bill that would ban transgender women and girls from participating in high school and college women’s sports. Democrats erupted in anger.

A Senate Republican Caucus spokesperson said the chamber would not take up the amended legislation. Instead, senators attached the college athlete compensation legislation to House Bill 29, a bill that would expand the ability to get a veterans’ ID card.

The Senate also added its latest version of a bill that would regulate sports betting in Ohio.

The House and Senate have clashed over the issue of sports betting for years. And Cupp was not optimistic on the probability of the two chambers reaching an agreement on the issue before the break.

“I think that would be an extremely high lift. We have not even had an opportunity for a single committee hearing over here on sports betting,” Cupp said. “I just can’t see it getting done. Would I like to do it? Sure, but I'd like to have it go through committee, have hearings, and that sort of thing as well.”

Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) said the Senate worked with members of the House before adding its sports betting amendment to HB 29.

“We have certain key members in the House that we’ve talked to, negotiated with, who now support the legislation and we’re hoping that those members can also apprise Speaker Cupp of the developments, movement, progress we've made and we need to get it done,” Schuring said.

The latest sports betting package would have two types of licenses. Type A licenses would be available to professional sports teams and casinos, with 25 available statewide. Up to 40 Type B license would be for up for grabs for brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. The bill also would allow veterans and fraternal halls to have up to seven e-bingo machines.

Huffman said if the House doesn’t approve the Senate’s changes to HB 29, the issue of college athlete compensation could be added to the budget package, as could the e-bingo portion of the sports betting bill.

All the legislative wrangling is happening with just five days left for the House and Senate to wrap up budget negotiations.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.