Ohio House Republican Caucus Chairman State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) and his allied House Republicans released his team’s priority list for House legislation on Wednesday.
This comes a mere week after Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), along with his Republican supporters, announced their legislative priorities following several weeks without any measures being formally submitted with bill numbers at all.
Republicans selected Merrin in November as the new speaker. Although the GOP caucus voted for Merrin as Speaker of the House in December, Stephen fought in collaboration with the Democrats to collect votes and garner a win.
Although Merrin’s priority list has several similar bills to Stephens, he said that some important measures are missing.
Both lists include the “Backpack Bill” universal voucher and other proposals like protecting the integrity of girls’ sports. Despite several differences, both plans call for a significant revision to tax law.
Merrin’s priority list includes:
- Protecting Ohio’s Constitution
- Eliminating Ohio’s income tax
- Empowering families through school choice and education reform
- Supporting our local governments
- Restoring confidence in state government through ethics reform
- Fighting for family values
- Providing affordable, reliable energy for Ohio businesses and families
- Preserving our freedoms
- Improving healthcare and lowering costs for all Ohioans
- Strengthening our workforce and welfare reform
Under several of these areas, there are lists of numerous bills. For instance, protecting the integrity of girls’ sports, the recently proposed SAFE (Save Adolescents from Experimentation) Act and the “Equal Parenting Bill,” which aims to guarantee that if a child’s parents separate, each will get an equal amount of time with the child, are all listed under the heading “fighting for family values.”
But, Merrin’s top two priorities, which, as Merrin points out, weren’t on Stephens’ list, are requiring 60 percent of voters’ permission before amending the constitution and abolishing the income tax.
According to Merrin, despite the differences in the two groups’ priorities, he wants to partner with Stephens.
“There’s several differences there. But we want to partner with Speaker Stephens. We want to partner with, really, the other 22 Republicans that really left our Republican caucus. We want to work with them,” Merrin said.
House Bill (HB) 11, known as the Backpack Bill, is one of Stephen’s priorities, as is HB6 the “Save Women’s Sports” Act, which is on both lists. HB 4 is a bill addressing environmental societal and governance (ESG) investing that is sponsored by Merrin supporters State Representatives Tom Young (R-Washington Township) and Angela King (R-Celina) and HB 12 to make changes to the State Board of Education.
House Joint Resolution (HJR) 1, the resolution to ask voters to require 60 percent voter approval for constitutional amendments, wasn’t listed as a priority of Stephens at all while it remains Merrin’s top priority.
According to Merrin, House Republicans do not want abortion enshrined in the constitution, nor do they want socialist measures dealing with the economy enshrined in the constitution.
“We have repeatedly asked and pressed to strengthen our constitution and not allow it to be hijacked by left-wing socialists by requiring a 60 percent threshold, and we’ve been blocked for doing that,” Merrin said.
Merrin also suggests switching to a 2.5 percent flat tax. Although the concept hasn’t undergone a fiscal examination, Merrin estimated it would cost the state $1.4 billion. But he insisted that his suggestion wouldn’t result in significant budget cuts.
“The state right now is flush with cash, and we should have a savings account. We should be responsible. Some people want to take the cash balance that we have on hand and spend it on one-time projects or just set up a new fund, which, a lot of those ideas deserve attention, deserve merit and a close look at. But it just shows that we do have the money. So it’s about priorities,” Merrin said.
Stephens’ HB 1 would modify the state’s 10 percent property tax deduction, which has existed since 1983 and institute a flat tax of 2.75 percent, among other property tax reforms. HB 1 is anticipated to cost local governments and school districts $1.2 billion yearly, according to its sponsor, State Representative Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon).
On the House floor last month, Merrin received 43 Republican votes to become speaker. Stephens secured 32 of the House’s Democratic votes in addition to 22 GOP votes, making him the next speaker.
Merrin asserted that he is in charge of the Ohio House Republican caucus as he was elected House Republican Caucus Chairman last month, a claim Stephens contests.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Background Photo “Ohio House of Representatives Chamber” by Antony-22. CC BY-SA 4.0.