Every two years, Ohio lawmakers put together a state budget, and the process invariably proves vulnerable to mischief and worse. Pet proposals appear suddenly, even at the latest stage, in the conference committee, landing in the approved budget after little deliberation, let alone facing legislative hearings. With the mid-biennium review initiated by Gov. John Kasich, lawmakers now have a second, or annual, opportunity for such maneuvering.
No surprise then that as the legislature hustled last week to wrap up business for the summer, dismaying provisions emerged, or returned. Take, for instance, a proposal to make dropout charter schools eligible for additional public money through a new adult high school diploma program championed by the governor. The House first included the idea. The state Senate removed it. In the end, the conference committee, designed to resolve differences between the chambers, revived the proposal.
Missing in all of this has been adequate consideration of such basic elements as how the funds would be disbursed. In the main, these charter dropout schools have been poor performers. Yet there is virtually no detail to suggest the better performers will receive priority. The impression left is that Republicans in charge of the Statehouse are less interested in careful legislating than in granting the wishes of David Brennan, long a campaign contributor, a charter school pioneer who would be rewarded even as his Life Skills schools have performed dismally.
Another idea that has gained new life would put chiropractors in position to clear young athletes to play after suffering a concussion. This proposal has received much discussion in recent years, the likes of the Ohio State Medical Association and children’s hospitals carrying the day. They have argued, persuasively, that only physicians should have the final say, in light of their broader and more extensive training, not to mention ensuring the health and safety of the child.
Now chiropractors have prevailed. The education component of the mid-biennium review includes a new committee, with three physicians and three chiropractors, to establish guidelines for treating and clearing young athletes. A once skeptical governor appears satisfied. A longtime member of his inner circle, Robert Klaffky, now a superlobbyist, also scored a victory. He represents the chiropractors.
Note that this version of the idea, including the committee, received no hearings, much less the necessary give and take. The same applies to a proposal that would alter dramatically the setback requirements for wind energy projects, putting the industry at risk in the state. The governor talks about wanting a robust alternative energy sector. Will he use his line-item veto to support the cause? Will he put a halt to enough of the rushed and ill-considered doings of legislators?