SUDDES: General Assembly heads home without meaningful action

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at tsuddes@gmail.com.

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Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at tsuddes@gmail.com.

All 99 Ohio House seats, and half the Senate’s 33, will be on November’s ballot. Republicans, led by House Speaker Robert Cupp, of Lima, run the House 64-35. And led by Senate President Matt Huffman, also of Lima, Republicans run the Senate, too — 25-8.

Those are veto-proof majorities. It takes 60 House votes and 20 Senate vote to override a governor’s veto.

Before legislators left Capitol Square for home last week, did they fully repeal House Bill 6 of 2019, the electric company bonanza rammed through the legislature by then-Speaker Larry Householder? Householder, a Perry County Republican, is now under indictment on federal corruption charges.

Nope. A key and pricey part of HB 6 still remains in effect: It forces Ohio electricity customers to bail out two money-losing, coal-burning power plants, one in Indiana.

The cost, so far, to Ohio electricity customers of that sweetheart deal? Almost $288,000 a day, for a cumulative total of almost $258 million — and counting — the Office of Consumers’ Counsel reports.

And did the Senate or House do anything meaningful about the gun plague that has ended so many innocent lives? Dream on. If anything, the legislature and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine widened the guns-and-ammo floodgate with a no-permit concealed carry law.

But of course, no General Assembly session would be complete without the passage of at least one nasty swipe aimed at LGBTQ Ohioans. And Cupp’s House didn’t disappoint.

On the session’s last night, via an amendment by Rep. Jena Powell, a Republican from Darke County’s Arcanum (whose district includes Miami County), the House amended an otherwise routine bill (House Bill 151). The effect: If the Senate agrees, potential K-12 and college athletes would have to “establish” their sex via a physician’s statement if their gender is challenged.

The physician’s statement could hinge on any (or all?) of three procedures the bill lists, including examination of “the participant’s internal and external reproductive anatomy.” A more brazen governmental intrusion into Ohioans’ personal lives is hard to imagine.

The amendment’s supposed aim is to prevent transgender women (people identified as male when born who later transition to female gender identity) from competing with cisgender women (people identified as female at birth).

Ostensibly, that’s to shield cisgender female athletes from unfair competition by transgender females. In fact, the amendment is another divisive measure designed to rattle right-wing cages. It’s a solution in search of a problem, but one that could boost GOP turnout, as supposedly Ohio’s 2004 ban on gay marriage did in that year’s presidential contest (it didn’t, but pols think otherwise).

To DeWine’s great credit, when a somewhat similar brainstorm was in play last year, he said, “This issue is best addressed outside of government, through individual sports leagues and athletic associations, including the Ohio High School Athletic Association, who can tailor policies to meet the needs of their member athletes and member institutions.”

The House bill with its anti-transgender amendment passed 57-30, with 50 “yes” votes required. Among those voting “yes”: Miami Valley Republican Reps. Powell, Sara Carruthers of Hamilton, Rodney Creech of West Alexandria, Bill Dean, of Xenia, Jennifer Gross of West Chester, Kyle Koehler of Springfield, Brian Lampton of Beavercreek, Scott Lipps of Franklin and Phil Plummer and Tom Young, both of Dayton.

Voting “no” were all Democrats present and GOP Rep. Brett Hudson Hillyer, of Uhrichsville.

So, inflation-squeezed Ohioans, you can take heart: Your legislature won’t do a thing about bloated electric bills — but, hey, when it comes to trans Ohioans, the General Assembly has you covered.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at tsuddes@gmail.com.

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