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Ohio Senate Finance Committee advances budget bill - adding sex ed changes, abortion restrictions, more daycare money

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 6 days ago Laura Hancock, cleveland.com
a cake sitting on top of a rug: An Ohio Statehouse east-side garden has flowers growing to resemble the burgee-shaped state flag. © Laura Hancock An Ohio Statehouse east-side garden has flowers growing to resemble the burgee-shaped state flag.

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Senate Finance Committee advanced the $75 billion, two-year state operating budget bill Tuesday evening, making dozens of changes but keeping intact its proposed 5% income tax cut and school funding overhaul plan.

The changes include money for daycare, rape crisis centers and domestic violence programs, as well as new abortion restrictions and stricter monitoring of sex education.

The budget bill is expected to be on the Senate floor Wednesday afternoon, where the GOP majority will likely pass it. Then the House and Senate will begin negotiations to hammer out their differences before the new fiscal year begins July 1.

Senate Finance Chair Matt Dolan, a Chagrin Falls Republican, said the budget addresses challenges for Ohio as it comes out of the pandemic.

“We are investing more into childcare,” he said. “We are investing more in the rape crisis centers, domestic violence centers throughout the state. We are investing in the Boys and Girls Club.”

The Finance Committee on Tuesday afternoon adopted an “omnibus” amendment that contained hundreds of amendments from state senators. Then the chamber recessed for two hours, and Republicans and Democrats separately caucused, before returning to pass the bill.

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee tried to further amend the bill before the vote, including trying to reverse changes that Senate Republicans made to their version of the budget. For instance, they wanted to reverse the Senate’s plan to eliminate the Step Up To Quality rating system for daycares accepting children on federal childcare subsidies. They also tried to eliminate the Senate’s version of the school funding overhaul in favor of the House’s, which provides more money and was developed over three years with numerous opinions from education advocates considered.

The Republican majority on the committee voted to defeat each of these amendments.

The three Democrats on the 13-member committee voted against the bill. Sen. Vernon Sykes, an Akron Democrat who is the committee’s ranking member, said he disagreed with many parts of the budget, and more work needs to be done to improve it.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to improve this process the next day,” he said.

Among other changes in the omnibus amendment:

-The budget would create the 100-acre Doris Duke Woods within Malabar Farm State Park in Richland County to honor the heiress’ contributions to conservation at the farm and across the nation. The woods would be in a mature hardwood forest. Timber couldn’t be removed from the area. Public hiking and horse trails that exist in the area would be maintained. The state would allow the use of the “Doris Duke Woods” brand for maple syrup harvesting purposes.

-Vax-a-Million registration information would not be a public record. Specifically, it blocks from public records law the database of names, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, street addresses, vaccine locations and parent information for people who entered the drawings for the $1 million giveaway or the full Ohio college scholarship.

-$50 million in federal grants would be steered to parents to make daycare co-payments on subsidized daycare. Dolan said that this will help parents return to work. The Senate previously changed the eligibility for subsidized daycare from the current $34,450 for a family of four to $37,630.

-The budget would change how clinics that provide surgical abortions are licensed. Currently, the clinics need to have a transfer agreement with a local hospital in case of a patient emergency, but it can’t be a publicly funded hospital, so some clinics get licensed under a variance, in which they have agreements with consulting physicians to assist if there is an emergency. Now the budget has been amended to change requirements regarding physicians: The hospital where they have admitting privileges must be within a 25-mile radius of the abortion clinic and they must practice within a 25-mile radius of the clinic. The physician can’t teach or be employed by a medical school or publicly funded hospital. Abortion rights groups described it as extreme. The only two surgical abortion clinics operating under variances are in Dayton and Cincinnati, so they could be affected, said NARAL-Pro-Choice Ohio’s Gabriel Mann.

—Current law requires sex education in Ohio schools to stress that students abstain from sexual activity until marriage, teach that conceiving children outside wedlock “is likely to have a harmful consequences for the child, the child’s parents, and society,” and emphasize adoption as an option for unplanned pregnancies, among other requirements. The omnibus amendment goes further, saying that if a school district chooses sex education that goes beyond the state’s law, it must notify parents. It must offer the name of any instructor, vendor or curriculum. Parents could inspect books on request. Kids couldn’t receive the education unless the parent or guardian has submitted written permission. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio called the provision out of touch with everyday Ohioans.

-The budget would provide $300,000 each of the two fiscal years for at-risk youth services at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center Human Trafficking Drop-In Center. Last week, Sondra Miller, the center’s president and CEO, told senators the center entered an agreement with the Ohio Department of Youth Services to provide targeted prevention services for youth leaving detention, since they’re among the most at-risk for trafficking. There was no funding tied to the agreement at that time.

-The budget would provide $2.7 million next year for Ohio’s rape crisis centers. Across the state, rape crisis centers lost more than $8 million in funding last year, due to cuts in the federal Victims of Crime Act, said Rosa Beltre, executive director of the Ohio Alliance to End Sexual Violence, who asked lawmakers for an extra $10 million.

-Federal funding to Ohio domestic violence programs has been cut by $7.7 million, Ohio Domestic Violence Network’s Michaela Deming said. The Senate provided an additional $2.5 million.

-The Senate wants to provide an additional $1.5 million in the next fiscal year to the Positive Education Program, a Cleveland organization that provides services to children with severe mental health and behavioral challenges, their families and professionals who help them.

Read more:

Justice Jennifer Brunner announces run for Ohio Supreme Court chief justice

Ohio Statehouse observers are watching the Senate’s income tax cut, education plans

Ohio Senate budget proposals include changes for Ohio Medicaid, daycare centers, anti-abortion pregnancy resource centers

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