Jan 19, 2023 - Politics

New Ohio General Assembly term already filled with drama

Illustration of the Ohio State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

After a surge of legislative activity to close out 2022, the Ohio General Assembly is now back to work at the Statehouse.

  • The new two-year term has already seen enough drama to fill a season of "House of Cards."

State of play: Republicans again hold supermajorities in both chambers, but two GOP factions in the House are warring after a controversial vote for speaker.

  • Some Republicans joined with Democrats to elevate Rep. Jason Stephens of Southeast Ohio instead of Toledo-area Rep. Derek Merrin, the party's initial choice.
  • Merrin still considers himself the caucus leader despite losing the battle.

Meanwhile, plenty of fresh faces represent Central Ohio on Capitol Square this term.

  • And Gov. Mike DeWine has his own priorities for members to consider as they prepare to debate the two-year state budget due this summer.

Some major policies we're hearing about so far:

Dept. of Ed overhaul

Republicans are again attempting to shift power away from the publicly-elected state board of education toward a new director appointed by the governor.

Between the lines: These legislative efforts picked up steam after two left-leaning candidates won seats on the board last November.

Abortion restrictions

Ohio's six-week abortion ban is currently on hold amid legal challenges.

  • Conservative lawmakers proposed a near total abortion ban last summer after Roe v. Wade was overturned, and in all likelihood will do so again this term.

The big question: Will GOP leadership push for this stricter ban?

Ballot amendment changes

Republicans quickly revived a failed 2022 effort to raise the threshold for constitutional ballot amendments to pass.

What they're saying: Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) has argued publicly the change is needed to combat special interest groups, while privately telling colleagues the goal is to ward off any future ballot amendment protecting abortion rights.

Separately, legislative leaders and the governor are eyeing policies to cut taxes, reform the state's medical marijuana program, end the death penalty and fund mental health programs, the Dispatch and Cleveland.com report.

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