Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Majority Party Plays Politics Before Curing Ohio’s Woes

House Chamber Plagued with Abuse of Legislative Process

COLUMBUS— With less than two weeks of legislative session left, a bipartisan effort to produce jobs and reduce the anti-business atmosphere that majority Democrats have created over the past 17 months has yet to occur.
“Unfortunately, throughout this legislative session, the majority party has demonstrated a consistent inability to garner open, earnest discussions on legislation aimed at ensuring a more prosperous Ohio,” said House Republican Leader William G. Batchelder (R-Medina). “It has become very clear that Ohio is not experiencing the same growth that many other states across the nation are. The majority caucus, especially the leadership team, should take their responsibilities and actions more seriously. They seem to be unaware that, as lawmakers, we are honored to represent the people of Ohio in the people’s house.”
To date, the House Democrats have silenced numerous economic discussions, ignored bills that would stimulate job growth and embarrassed the House chamber through blatant disrespect of the House rules.
“This legislative political game playing must be stopped,” said House Republican Asst. Leader Louis W. Blessing Jr. (R-Cincinnati). “If my colleagues from across the aisle truly believe that our caucus will take part in their games, they are sorely mistaken. In the beginning, the speaker and his colleagues pledged to use tax or fee increases as a last resort. To date, they have worked with Governor Strickland in raising more than 150 fees and placing a $900 million unexpected, retroactive tax increase on the backs of Ohioans. The numerous examples of total departure of the legislative process and respect for the House as a sacred institution are appalling.”
One such example of deliberate disrespect for the legislative process includes House Bill 400. This legislative measure, introduced by Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney), works to incrementally diminish over a decade’s time, the personal income tax in Ohio to make the state economy more competitive.
“While our economy is suffering, one might think that partisanship power grabs of the legislative process could yield until we find a solution,” said Adams. “However, my legislation aimed at stimulating discussions about the best way to eliminate Ohio’s income tax and alleviate the tax burden that has made Ohio uncompetitive is being abused. Tax policy is the main difference between states that create jobs and states that scare them away. The Democrats have time and again entertained foolish legislation and neglects to address the hemorrhaging of jobs from our state.”
However, since it was unveiled six months ago, House Bill 400 has received only two hearings. The first hearing included brief sponsor testimony and the second was reported by the media as an attempt by the House majority to repeatedly twist the intent and use it against the sponsor, or “flog it like a zombie that keeps popping out of the grave.”
“Almost all bills that have more than one hearing have at least a day for proponent testimony, but despite our requests, the majority has refused to allow a proponent hearing,” said Matt Huffman (R-Lima). “As ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, it was quite distasteful to see that no witnesses who attended to offer proponent testimony were able to fully testify at the first hearing, because opponents were called before the proponents. Many had traveled from across the country to Columbus under the impression they would be afforded the opportunity to offer their insight and comments.”
Recognizing that fixing the state’s woes requires fiscal discipline and a long-term vision, House Republicans have proposed several dozen bills to create jobs, encourage business investment and propel Ohio’s economy forward.
“As legislators, we have a responsibility to hold cooperative, intelligent debates on how to get Ohioans back to work,” Rep. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) said. “Unfortunately, when one group of witnesses is silenced during the committee process, it is impossible to work together as a legislative body. I hope that the House majority will be able to put partisanship aside and do what is right for Ohio’s future.”