The top Republican and Democrat in the Ohio House of Representatives jointly unveiled new priority legislation on Monday, in a continuation of the recent and unusual bipartisanship within the legislative chamber.
One of the four bills revives the “H2Ohio” water-quality fund, a $900 million initiative from Gov. Mike DeWine that Republican leaders nixed last week from DeWine’s state budget proposal. The bill would create a new advisory board, comprised of appointees from the governor’s office and the legislature, and give it the authority to borrow money for water-improvement projects.
The other three deal with similarly uncontroversial topics. They are:
1. Revising foster-parenting requirements, with an aim at getting more parents into the system. The move is a response to the increased number of children being removed from their home as a result of rising drug-addiction levels.
2. Creating a state “tech cred” program that would issue grants to businesses that provide training for in-demand jobs.
3. Creating a statewide “kinship navigator” program that would help connect people, forced to take in family members during a crisis, with state resources.
House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican, and Democratic Minority Leader Emilia Sykes held a rare joint news conference at the Statehouse on Monday to unveil the four bills.
Householder said the bills, which he wants to pass before the end of summer, represent areas of common ground between the two parties in the House. The H2Ohio bill and the kinship care bill both were part of a set of policy priorities Democrats announced earlier this year.
“I feel very strongly that we have members of the Democratic Party, and members of the Republican party who have watched what’s going on in Washington, D.C. and think that there’s a better way of doing things,” Householder said.
“We might have disagreed over the past few months on bills that would impact the lives of Ohioans, but much like the people of our great nation and the people of the State of Ohio, we are more alike than different,” Sykes said.
Householder has led the Ohio House of Representatives since January, when Democrats and some influential state labor unions helped Householder win a long-running, contentious leadership fight with Republican state Rep. Ryan Smith.
Since then, Householder has courted and received Democratic votes for two major pieces of legislation — the state transportation budget, since signed into law, that raises the state’s gas tax to pay for roads and bridges, and a state budget plan which cleared the House last week, proposing to raise taxes on business owners in part to pay for income-tax cuts for everyone else.
Householder also has shepherded through two new laws dealing with hot-button social issues where the two parties don’t see eye to eye.
One, which fixed a typo in a firearms bill passed in December, got some Democratic votes after Householder asked for them.
Democrats loudly opposed the other, a sweeping abortion ban, expected to face a legal challenge, that makes it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion as soon as six weeks after a woman becomes pregnant.
Asked Monday if Republicans and Democrats might be able to work together on social issues like abortion or guns, Householder wasn’t as sanguine.
“Well. We’d like to find common ground. It’s just that so many times those areas become so difficult to find common ground,” he said.