Sunday, January 06, 2008

DDN: Energy, voting overhaul top items as Ohio legislators return from break

"I'll be honest with you. It will be very difficult to accomplish this (health care) ...a major reform in the time frame we have," he said. Jon Husted
Well, Jon, the 2007 Ohio Legislature met in the fewest sessions in the past decade, a record which certainly was not one to brag about! Is too much to ask for you to try not to break this record in 2008? Maybe, with a few more scheduled sessions, healthcare could be put on the front burner for a change?
Americans and Ohioans have lately been hit with the request to "work a little harder" and "accomplish the impossible." Ohio's retired educators are and have been suffering for years and will stand for no more "back burner time" with House Bill 315. Unlike your contemplating running for the Ohio Senate we retirees are busy running from debt collectors thanks to the Ohio House's failure to put a priority on this House Bill. We will remember at election time!
John Curry
Senate has already approved a package intended to stabilize rates and increase use of renewable energy.
Dayton Daily News, January 6, 2008
By William Hershey and Laura A. Bischoff
Staff Writers
COLUMBUS Until Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner jumped in with her sweeping proposal to overhaul the state's election system, one word summed up the legislature's priorities for this year:
Finishing up work on comprehensive legislation to return Ohio's electric utilities to a regulated system still is a top priority when lawmakers return Wednesday. The package is intended to stabilize rates and increase the use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and fuel cells.
Ohio deregulated the electricity market in 1999 with the idea that competition would bring lower rates. But the market didn't blossom and without new legislation the state's 5.4 million electricity customers could face price spikes in January 2009. That's when rate stabilization plans approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio begin expiring.
The energy bill now may share top billing with Brunner's plan — which calls for scrapping electronic voting machines and replacing them with paper ballots tabulated by optical scanners.
With two such time-consuming proposals before them, lawmakers likely won't have time to tackle other major issues such as health care reform this year, said House Speaker Jon Husted, R-Kettering.
"I'll be honest with you. It will be very difficult to accomplish this (health care) ...a major reform in the time frame we have," he said.
The Senate already has approved the energy legislation, sticking mainly to Gov. Ted Strickland's original proposal. It's now before the House where Husted wants to add a tax-funded program to encourage renewable technology companies to locate in Ohio and create good jobs.
Income taxes paid on new jobs within the renewable energy industry would be funneled into a program that gives research grants to that industry.
Legislators are expected to get more proposals to consider when Strickland delivers his second State of the State Speech on Feb. 6.
Until then, here are the issues that may make headlines during the legislative session:
Sick leave
Brunner ruled last week that backers of a plan to require businesses with 25 or more employees to provide their employees with seven paid sick days a year gathered enough valid signatures on petitions calling for the legislation. That means the legislature has four months to act on their proposal. If it doesn't, backers of the plan can put the issue on the November ballot by gathering an additional 120,863 valid signatures on new petitions.
Two constitutional amendments targeted for the November ballot are before the Senate, including one that involves providing one-time cash bonuses to veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if it gets Senate approval, however, the amendment faces an uncertain fate in the Senate.
Lottery profits
The other proposed constitutional amendment up for Senate approval calls for requiring all lottery profits and a percentage of revenue from certain taxes go for funding primary and secondary schools. That, too, could encounter opposition in either the House or the Senate.
Finally, Ohio voters could once again be asked for their views in the fall on whether to permit casino gambling. Backers of a proposed $600 million casino in Clinton County are collecting signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot asking for citizen approval.
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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