Press release: New rules in Ohio House foster transparency & bipartisanship

Editors note: This press release was issued on 1/11/2011.  The state representatives elected to the Ohio House of Representatives last November are now in office and a new session of the Ohio General Assembly has convened.

REPUBLICANS PROMOTE OPEN LEGISLATIVE PROCESS AND CUT COSTS THROUGH NEW OHIO HOUSE RULES

COLUMBUSThe new Ohio House Republican majority today proposed new governing rules that will promote a more open and fair legislative process for legislators on both sides of the aisle.

“Sixteen years ago, after more than two decades in the minority, Republicans dramatically changed the way the House of Representatives was governed,” said Representative Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green).  “Today, the new Republican majority says change is needed again.”

Gardner was asked by Speaker William G. Batchelder (R-Medina) to oversee a rewriting of House rules to restore some of the principles that have been lost since Gardner and Batchelder served in House leadership more than a decade ago.

“It is time for us to throw open the doors and the windows of the Statehouse and let the sun shine through again,” Speaker Batchelder said.  “This is the People’s House, and we have put together rules that further our commitment to all Ohioans that the House of Representatives will operate effectively, efficiently and with greater transparency.”

Specifically, the new rules would change the House in three significant ways:

  • The number of full standing committees is reduced by 37 percent, from 27 committees to 17.  Gardner and Batchelder maintain that fewer committees promotes a greater focus on issues and will save the taxpayers additional money with fewer committees. This change alone to legislators’ base salary for committee service will save taxpayers more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars over the biennium.

  • A two-day waiting period or reading period has been re-established for any final votes (conference reports) on legislation with appropriations, primarily aimed at a more open state budget process.  The rule requires two days following a conference committee vote before the House may consider the budget.  Last session, House members were given three hours to read 500 changes in the 3,000-page budget, which spent $50.5 billion.
  • A rule requiring advanced notice of floor amendments has been repealed, meaning any House member may propose a floor amendment at any time.  Under the old rules, members had to have their amendments submitted to the House clerk by 10 a.m.

“When you shut out a legislator from debate and from offering amendments, that legislator’s constituents are shut out of the process as well—and that, we believe, is wrong,” Gardner said.  “We strive to provide a more fair and open process for all legislators regardless of party, so that all Ohioans can be represented.”

Batchelder noted that only four bills sponsored by GOP members in the past two years passed the House and none in the first six months of the session.  He said that was a stark contrast to the 26 Democrat bills that were passed in the 1995-96 session when he was Speaker Pro Tempore, with 14 minority bills passing in the first six months of session.

“We intend to pass legislation that will benefit all Ohioans, regardless of the party affiliation of the member who sponsors the bill,” Speaker Batchelder said.  “We believe that these rules are the most favorable to the minority caucus than any other session in recent memory.”

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