COLUMBUS—The Ohio Senate gave approval today to its version of the state's biennial operating budget (Am. Sub. House Bill 49). The bill invests in essential public services, maintains historic levels of state aid for education and preserves key tax reforms while reducing government overhead and closing a projected revenue shortfall of roughly $1 billion.

"This budget is fiscally responsible while investing in the citizens and priorities of this state," said Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina). "I'm proud of the work we were able to accomplish to keep our state healthy and our future hopeful."

Senator Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee added, "This was a very tight budget, but we listened carefully to Ohioans to understand their priorities and expectations of financial stability for the state of Ohio."

Below are major highlights of the Senate-passed version of the budget:

Reducing Government Spending and Increasing Efficiency

  • With the state facing a projected shortfall of just over $1 billion, the Senate reduced government overhead by cutting administrative costs across state agencies an average of 3-4 percent and finding tens of millions in excess or unspent funds. This cost savings was managed with the goal of minimal impact on actual services provided.
  • The Senate also included a process for the legislature to review each executive agency every two years prior to the biennial budget with the goal of limiting duplicative state programs and ensuring the responsible allocation of state resources.
  • This budget also eliminates or combines several state boards and commissions.


Protecting Vital Services and Programs

  • The Senate restored funding cuts to several essential services, including food banks, breast and cervical cancer screening programs, and clean water and food safety programs.
  • The Senate also included additional funding for crisis pregnancy centers, Teach for America and Special Olympics, among other essential programs.
  • Funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs, especially for pregnant women and new mothers, was increased to $25 million.
  • Over $22 million was allocated for workforce training programs in the Appalachia region of Ohio, a significant increase.


Reforming Healthcare

  • The fallout from Obamacare has left many Ohio counties without adequate health care insurance options. As the program continues to be financially unsustainable, the Senate instituted reforms to both contain growth and ensure access to Medicaid services for Ohioans who need them most. This includes requiring the state to file a Section 1332 Innovation Waiver by January 2018 to get Ohio more flexibility to regulate its own insurance market, free of federal mandates.
  • It also controls costs by seeking a Section 1115 waiver for the "Healthy Ohio" program, freezing Medicaid expansion in July 2018 and allowing the state the ability to hit the pause button while the Senate evaluates federal changes.


Maintaining Investments in Education

  • Total state aid investments since 2013 have resulted in overall state per pupil increases of 30.5%. The Senate plan calls for an additional $154 million in state foundation aid for K-12 education in FY18 and an additional $120 million in FY19. 
  • The Senate continued to prioritize college affordability, removing a provision that would have permitted unlimited increases in tuition under the Ohio Tuition Guarantee Program, and increased funding by more than $208 million for need-based financial aid.
  • This budget increases funding for libraries across the state.


Fighting Ohio's Opiate Epidemic

  • The Senate includes roughly $180 million in additional funding to fight Ohio's opiate crisis, on top of the nearly $1 billion already spent by the state annual on drug abuse and addiction.
  • Included is $60 million in funding for child protective services and programs to support children in drug-affected families; an additional $2 million dollars over the biennium to support county coroners and criminal and forensic labs who are facing case overload issues; maintaining $20 million capital commitment for the expansion of treatment and recovery housing; funding critical upgrades to the OARRS system, a statewide effort to track prescriptions and combat prescription abuse, and adding a $5 million investment to help counties establish drug abuse response teams, among other initiatives. 


Returning More Tax Dollars to Ohioans

  • This budget eliminates the bottom two tax brackets, simplifying tax code and ensuring no Ohioan earning below $10,500 will pay income tax.
  • The Senate doubled the tax deduction families can take for college savings, as well as for the ABLE program, which allows families of children with disabilities to save for expense associated with caring for them.
  • The bill updates the state's CAUV policy for valuing land for agricultural purposes to ensure that the taxes paid by farmers are more closely tied to the income-producing potential of the land.
  • Also included is the Rural Jobs Act, which incentivizes agricultural job creation and economic development in the rural underserved areas of the state.
  • Ohio's popular Sales Tax Holiday, which provides tax relief for families and encourages retail sales and tourism, has been extended to 2018.

The bill now returns to the Ohio House of Representatives, where it is expected to be referred to a conference committee where the House and Senate versions will be reconciled. The Ohio Constitution requires a balanced budget signed by the governor by June 30.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - State Senator Bill Coley (R-Liberty Township) announced the passage of legislation today in the Ohio Senate to strengthen awareness efforts and provide contributions for clinical research aimed at curing deadly pediatric brain tumors.

Sponsored by Senator Coley, the bill would establish a KylerStrong Foundation specialty license plate, with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting DIPG research through the foundation.

"Today is another milestone in our efforts to honor Kyler and all those who suffer, both directly and indirectly, from the devastation that DIPG causes families," said Coley. 

DIPG is an aggressive, malignant brain tumor found at the base of the brain stem, affecting approximately 200 to 400 children in the U.S each year. It is the second most common malignant brain tumor and is the leading cause of childhood death due to brain tumors. The average prognosis of those diagnosed is 9 months. Symptoms include double vision, inability to close the eyelids completely, drooping of one side of the face as well as difficulty chewing and swallowing.

Senator Coley and his wife, Carolyn, witnessed the devastation caused by DIPG firsthand as they developed a close friendship with constituent Kyler Bradley and his family during the 10-year-old's battle with DIPG. 

Kyler Bradley passed away on April 12, 2016. The day after his passing, Senator Coley paid tribute to Bradley with a moment of silence on the floor of the Senate, urging his colleagues to redouble their efforts to find a cure for DIPG.

Rebecca Bradley, Kyler's mother, and her oldest son, Kirk, as well as Kyler's best friend, Caleb, were in the Ohio Senate Chamber today as the legislation was unanimously approved. 

Earlier this year, Senator Coley co-sponsored legislation, introduced by Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), designating May 17th as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) Awareness Day.

Senate Bill 77 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration. 

For more information about the KylerStrong DIPG Awareness specialty license plate and research efforts supported by the KylerStrong Foundation, please visit www.kylerstrongfoundation.com.

 
 
  
 
Ohio Senate Unveils Balanced Budget That Protects Essential Services And Reduces The Size Of Government
Opiate Crisis Receives Additional Investment and the Majority of Schools Maintain Current Funding Levels
June 12, 2017
 
 

COLUMBUS – The Ohio Senate unveiled its first draft of the state’s two-year operating budget today, closing a projected shortfall of roughly $1 billion, while preserving key tax reforms, maintaining historic levels of state aid for schools and investing in essential public services.  The budget also includes a record level of investment in fighting the state’s opiate epidemic.

“This is a difficult process, but this budget is balanced, it is fiscally responsible, and it invests in the citizens and key priorities of this great state,” said Senate PresidentLarry Obhof (R-Medina). 
 
The state faces a projected fiscal shortfall, which combined with other factors required substantial changes to the budget proposed by the Administration earlier this year. In April, President Obhof, Governor John Kasich and Speaker Clifford Rosenberger announced an $800 million shortfall. That number is expected to increase as new projections come out later this month.
 
"We expect the current gap to increase, and the Senate has budgeted accordingly. We assumed a gap of just over $1 billion, and this proposal closes that gap," said Obhof. “I believe this bill reflects the right balance between funding our state’s priorities and doing more with less.” 
 
Obhof announced that while the Senate reduced state spending, the chamber delivered a balanced budget that upholds its commitment to avoid raising taxes or spending the state's "rainy day fund." 
 
“It’s never easy to make cuts because someone always has a persuasive case for funding their particular program or agency, but we had to prioritize,” said SenatorScott Oelslager (R-North Canton), chair of the Senate Finance Committee.  “We set out to ensure that we protect the investment we’ve made in our schools, maintain the safety and service needs of our citizens, and find a way to get more dollars to the front lines of the opiate epidemic.  A lot of people and agencies stepped up to help us do that, and we have a very responsible, prudent plan to consider as a result.”
 
Below is a summary of major provisions in the Senate’s plan to achieve cost savings and still invest in essential human services.
 
Reducing the Size of Government

  • The Senate’s budget generally reduces government overhead by cutting administrative costs for state agencies across the board by an average of three to four percent - or more in some cases - generating approximately $20 million in savings. The Senate is cutting its own budget by six percent.
  • On top of that, the governor’s administration worked with the Senate to identify other targeted agency cuts to specific programs that either had excess or unspent funds.  In each of those cases, the Senate worked with the agencies to identify savings that are least harmful to public services.  That effort saved more than $100 million.
  • The Senate eliminated tens of millions of dollars in earmarks; took roughly $85 million from programs in the last budget that had excess or unspent funds and by not renewing some of those programs in the new budget; worked with the Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections to identify about $20 million in savings; and worked with Medicaid to identify more than $200 million in reductions, while ensuring the reliable continuation of services for Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens.

 
Protecting Vital Services

  • The Senate restored funding cuts to foodbanks, breast and cervical cancer screening programs and clean water and food safety initiatives, among others.
  • The Senate also protected from deeper cuts programs such as local child support, health departments, AIDS prevention initiatives, services for people with disabilities, public transportation and schools for the deaf and blind.
  • The Senate protected funding for our nationally recognized public library system and increased the formula funding for libraries over the prior version of the bill.

 
Maintaining Our Investment in Education

  • The Senate has worked to support primary and secondary education with total increases in foundation aid of $1.7 billion in the past three budgets, including this one. This investment has resulted in overall state per pupil increases since 2013 of 30.5%.
  • Our plan adds $154 million more in state aid for K-12 education in FY18 and then an additional $117 million in FY19.
  • In this budget, 535 school districts will receive either increases in state foundation aid or be otherwise protected from state cuts. In fact, the only districts to receive reductions in state foundation aid are those with more than five percent student population loss in the past two years. The budget establishes a base cap of three percent but then provides for additional funds for districts gaining students up to six percent by FY19.
  • The Senate maintained an increase in funding for early childhood programs and expanded eligibility for low-income families so that, where space is available, three-year-olds can access programs formerly limited to four-year-olds.
  • Listening to concerns from parents, teachers and school administrators, the Senate continued to reduce the over-testing burden on students by eliminating the requirement for state fourth and sixth grade social studies tests and relying on local development of history testing.
  • The Senate continued to prioritize college affordability, removing a provision that would have permitted unlimited increases in tuition under the Ohio Tuition Guarantee Program.
  • The Senate also increased funding for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, which provides need-based financial aid to college students. Our OCOG investment of more than $208 million over the biennium is the largest since GRF-supported need-based financial aid was drastically cut in the 2009 budget bill.

 
Reducing Ohio’s Tax Burden

  • The Senate continues to make tax relief a core principle of our governing philosophy, not only maintaining in this bill tax cuts and reforms adopted over the last six years, but also including additional reforms.
  • The Senate’s budget doubles the tax deduction families can take for college savings, as well as for the ABLE program, which allows families of children with disabilities to save for expenses associated with caring for them; includes the Rural Jobs Act language passed by the Senate but not enacted in the prior General Assembly, which incentivizes agricultural job creation and economic development in rural underserved areas of the state; extends the Sales Tax Holiday to the 2018 calendar year, providing tax relief for families while encouraging retail sales and tourism; and retains provisions already included in the bill which eliminate the bottom two tax brackets and reform property tax valuation of agricultural land.

 
Fighting Ohio’s Opiate Epidemic

  • The Senate was able to take what the House did on the opiates issue and expand that funding to $176.4 million – on top of the nearly $1 billion already being spent by the state annually on drug abuse and addiction.
  • The Senate achieved about $100 million in savings overall by converting much of the House-allocated funding to non-GRF dollars.  Working with state and federal partners, the Senate identified other resources that kept intact the $170 million made by the House and allowed us to add to it.
  • Among some of the highlights, the Senate included $60 million in funding for child protective services and programs to support children in drug-affected families; added $2 million dollars over the biennium to support criminal and forensic labs, as well as county coroners who are facing case overload issues because of drug fatalities; maintained the $20 million capital commitment for the expansion of treatment and recovery housing; invested $6 million in new detox facilities; included funding for a new pilot program that assists drug task forces with new investigative tools to combat trafficking; funded critical upgrades to the OARRS system, a statewide effort to track prescriptions and combat prescription abuse; included $1 million in additional funding to care for drug-addicted infants; made a $5 million investment in helping counties establish drug abuse response teams; included $5 million in funding to train teachers in identifying students who might be addicted; and created a pathway for county jails to be reimbursed by the state for costly mental health drugs.

 
The Senate’s version of the state budget, also known as Substitute House Bill 49, will be introduced today in the Senate’s Finance Committee at 2:30 p.m., which can be viewed live at OhioSenate.gov.  Today’s news conference can be watched atOhioChannel.org. Follow @OhioSenateGOP on social media for more information and daily updates.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) issued the following statement today regarding Anthem's decision to leave Ohio's health insurance exchange:

"I am disappointed, but not surprised, that Obamacare continues to hurt people across Ohio. The mandates in the misnamed 'Affordable Care Act' have driven up premiums in Ohio by more than 90 percent and are pushing providers out of the marketplace.

"According to the Ohio Department of Insurance, the number of providers on the exchanges has fallen from 17 to 10, and the total number of providers selling insurance products across the state has dropped from around 60 to less than 40 today. At least 18 counties are left today with no providers selling on their local exchanges.

"Obamacare's rules and overregulation are placing a heavy burden on the people of our state. That is why I sponsored a provision in state law requiring the Ohio Department of Insurance to request a waiver of these onerous federal rules. It is my hope that the Trump Administration grants that waiver once it is filed.

"More fundamentally, it is long past time to repeal the ACA and replace it with policies that respect individual liberty and achieve both quality and affordability through free market competition."

Consumers with questions should contact the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1526.

 
 
  
 
A Time For Remembering
A Guest Column by Senate President Larry Obhof
May 29, 2017
 
 

The month of May is a time for remembrance. Days have been established at the state and national levels reminding us of the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served our communities and our country. Earlier this month we marked the sacrifices of first responders – and more specifically, police officers – with National Police Week and Peace Officers’ Memorial Day. We recognize today as Memorial Day, a day of remembering and honoring the military men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our nation.   
 
As Scripture tells us, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) As we celebrate Memorial Day, please remember what we are recognizing. We are honoring hundreds of thousands of men and women – friends, family members, neighbors – who chose something greater than themselves. These were men and women who risked their safety, and ultimately gave their lives, in defense of our freedom and security.
 
Today, we all had the benefit of waking up in a nation that was founded on the ideals of liberty and equality, a nation that is among the freest and most prosperous in the history of the world. That did not happen by accident. It happened because brave men and women across America made it happen, because hundreds of thousands of Americans spilled their blood and gave their lives to make it happen.

Memorial Day gives us the opportunity to remember their boldness, their courage and their sacrifice.
 
We owe these heroes a debt that we can never repay. But as President Reagan reminded us many years ago, we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice. Honor their sacrifice through your actions every day. Appreciate the gifts that we have – the freedoms that we enjoy – but never forget that they were not granted to us by luck or by some accident of history. They were given to us by our fallen brothers and sisters.

 
 
  
President Obhof receives the "Lay the Groundwork" Award from Groundwork Ohio Executive Committee members (left to right) Eric Karolak, CEO of Columbus' Action for Children; Robyn LightCap, Executive Director of Dayton's Learn to Earn; and Stephanie Byrd, Executive Director of Success by 6-United Way of Greater Cincinnati.

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) yesterday received the "Lay the Groundwork" award from Groundwork Ohio in recognition of his leadership on issues related to early childhood education, development and care.

"I'm honored to receive this award," said Obhof. "We know more than ever how critically important early childhood education is to the development of our youngest Ohioans."

"President Obhof has been a strong champion for Ohio's most vulnerable children," said Shannon Jones, Executive Director for Groundwork Ohio. "Groundwork is pleased to recognize his steadfast commitment."

Groundwork Ohio is a statewide advocacy leader on early childhood care and education issues.

In other news, President Obhof was elected Chairman of the Legislative Service Commission, a nonpartisan agency, which oversees a staff that is responsible for providing members of the General Assembly with impartial and accurate information and reports concerning legislative issues. 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—State Senator Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati) today announced the Senate passage of legislation providing Ohio's school districts a new, alternative option for accessing state support for facility needs like technology infrastructure and safety features.

"The safety and security of our students should be a paramount concern for school officials," said Terhar. "This legislation seeks to make additional resources available for districts to address facility needs, without requiring stringent state requirements." 

Senate Bill 8 creates a new 1:1 match option for schools that have not yet received any state support or entered into an agreement with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which is approximately 229 districts.

Sponsored by Senators Terhar and Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), the bill allows school districts that have not accepted money in the traditional school construction program to accept smaller amounts of state facilities aid in exchange for a reduced local match.

The plan is expected to fund school districts faster, while saving state tax dollars from the traditional classroom construction fund. The Ohio Association of School Business Officials, the Ohio School Board Association and the Buckeye Association of School Administrators have all endorsed the legislation. 

“We have a real opportunity to make a difference toward better support options for schools," said Gardner.

Since 1997, Ohio has dedicated more than $11.5 billion in state aid to update and improve school facilities across the state.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration. 

Clarifying Ohio Lending Laws

Additionally, the Ohio House of Representatives today passed Senate Bill 24, sponsored by Senator Terhar, which will clarify Ohio's installment lending laws to help eliminate confusion for consumers and lenders as well as simplify the role of industry regulators. 

Senate Bill 24 now goes to Governor John Kasich to be signed into law.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) today announced the passage of legislation that provides common sense criminal justice reforms giving victims of human trafficking an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Senate Bill 4, co-sponsored by Obhof, offers hope to human trafficking victims who are often forced to commit crimes while being victimized. Arrests stemming from coerced behavior, such as prostitution or drug use, can negatively impact the victim's ability to apply for a job or seek permanent housing. This legislation would allow for expungement from the victim's criminal record of certain offenses committed under duress. Additionally, the bill would permit victims of compelled prostitution to apply for intervention in lieu of conviction.

"Sadly, human trafficking is a growing criminal enterprise," said Obhof. "As we continue our efforts to stomp out this form of modern-day slavery, we remain committed to helping victims rebuild their lives and ensuring that our civil justice system treats them fairly."

Senate Bill 4 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Today's legislation complements a series of bills passed over the last several years focused on combating human trafficking by increasing protections for victims as well as strengthening punishments for offenders. For more information on Ohio's human trafficking laws and resources, visit www.humantrafficking.ohio.gov.

Investing in Safer Schools
The Senate also passed legislation today providing Ohio's school districts a new, alternative option for accessing state support for facility needs like technology infrastructure, safety features or additional classroom space for a growing student population. Senate Bill 8, also co-sponsored by Obhof, creates a new 1:1 match option for schools that have not yet received state support or entered into an agreement with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. Since 1997, Ohio has dedicated more than $11.5 billion in state aid to update and improve school facilities across the state.
 

Commemorating the Holocaust
President Obhof today joined Governor Kasich, Speaker Rosenberger and members of the Ohio Jewish Communities at the Statehouse for the 37th Annual Governor's Holocaust Commemoration. 

Obhof said, "While we reflect on one of humanity's darkest times, may God grant each of us the courage to stand up in protest when we are confronted with evil and hate."
 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger today welcomed the U.S. Marine Corps Battle Color Detachment for a performance on the Statehouse lawn to commemorate National Military Appreciation Month. They were joined by guest of honor Annie Glenn, wife of the late Senator and astronaut John Glenn.

"It was a privilege to be part of today's ceremony honoring the courageous men and women in our armed forces," said Obhof. "We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the tens of thousands of soldiers who have given their lives defending the freedoms we enjoy today."

The battle color ceremony featured the U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, the Silent Drill Platoon and the Marine Corps Color Guard. The event was free and open to the public. This was the unit's first performance at the Ohio Statehouse and a rare large-scale drill by the group outside of Washington D.C.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) today announced the passage of legislation which would update the way agricultural property values are calculated in order to provide much needed tax relief to Ohio’s farmers.

Senate Bill 36, which President Obhof co-sponsored, would modify the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) formula, which determines the value of farmland for property taxation purposes. The bill aims to set a more realistic and stable expectation of taxes owed by farmers. Some commodity prices dropped significantly in the last several years while the CAUV formula simultaneously caused farm property assessments to increase, putting many farming businesses in jeopardy. Recent farmland property taxes have increased by as much as 200-300% in some areas of the state.

“Our farmers need a reliable tax policy that values their land fairly—not skyrocketing rates that tax them out of business," said Obhof. "Senate Bill 36 will help ensure long-term stability for our agricultural communities."

Senate Bill 36 also recognizes the efforts Ohio farmers have made in protecting the state's water supply. For farms setting aside acreage for conservation efforts, the new CAUV policy will ensure the lowest taxable level on that land.

“This bill is more than tax reform. It is also about encouraging conservation,” added Obhof. “This bill will course-correct state policy. Farmers should not be unfairly penalized for protecting our natural resources."

CAUV is a property tax relief program for agricultural land in Ohio. It is the result of a voter referendum from 1973 that allows farmland to be taxed according to its agricultural value, as apposed to full market value. This program is considered a “differential assessment,” a type of tax relief used for agricultural lands in the United States.

Senate Bill 36 now moves to the Ohio House for consideration.

 
 
  
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Senate Budget Closes Fiscal Shortfall And Protects Essential Services

 

"This budget is fiscally responsible while investing in the citizens and priorities of this state," said Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina). "I'm proud of the work we were able to accomplish to keep our state healthy and our future hopeful."



 
 

Senate Approves Awareness Legislation Aimed At Curing Pediatric Brain Tumors In Honor Of Kyler Bradley

 

"Today is another milestone in our efforts to honor Kyler and all those who suffer, both directly and indirectly, from the devastation that DIPG causes families," said Coley. 

DIPG is an aggressive, malignant brain tumor found at the base of the brain stem, affecting approximately 200 to 400 children in the U.S each year. It is the second most common malignant brain tumor and is the leading cause of childhood death due to brain tumors. The average prognosis of those diagnosed is 9 months. Symptoms include double vision, inability to close the eyelids completely, drooping of one side of the face as well as difficulty chewing and swallowing.



 
 

Ohio Senate Unveils Balanced Budget That Protects Essential Services And Reduces The Size Of Government

 

“This is a difficult process, but this budget is balanced, it is fiscally responsible, and it invests in the citizens and key priorities of this great state,” said Senate PresidentLarry Obhof (R-Medina). 



 
 

Ohio Senate President Issues Statement On Anthem's Withdrawal From Ohio's Insurance Exchange

 

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) issued the following statement today regarding Anthem's decision to leave Ohio's health insurance exchange: