Legislative Watch – December 18, 2023

Ohio General Assembly Concludes Work for 2023; OEA Asks Members to Call Governor DeWine to Urge Veto of HB 68

On Wednesday, December 13, 2023, both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate held their last sessions of the year.  Below are updates regarding bills that OEA has been actively tracking since the General Assembly returned to session in September.

House Bill 68 – The Ohio Senate passed HB 68 by a vote of 24-8 and the Ohio House concurred with Senate changes 61-27. OEA opposes HB 68, which now awaits action by Governor DeWine. OEA calls on the Governor to veto HB 68. To read a copy of OEA’s veto letter, click here. OEA has long stood for policies that are inclusive of students regardless of race, class, gender, or identity. Athletics and other extracurricular programs provide an important opportunity for all students to learn, grow, and meet their full potential. HB 68 creates unnecessary regulations that limit student participation on high school and collegiate athletic teams. These proposed regulations conflict with existing policies adopted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) and the National College Athletic Association (NCAA). Further, these regulations would discriminate against some students by establishing an absolute prohibition on transgender female participation on teams designated only for female participants. 

OEA wants all students to be treated with dignity and respect. Elected officials should create laws that protect and expand the basic rights of Ohioans, not simply use their power to exploit divisions and fears to control the political narrative and punish students for being their authentic selves.

Please call Governor DeWine and urge that he veto HB 68 by dialing 614-466-3555.

Senate Bill 83 – The full Ohio House of Representatives did not vote on Substitute Senate Bill 83, despite being favorably reported by the House Higher Education Committee. The bill, known as the Higher Education “Destruction” Act, is a sweeping piece of legislation that will eliminate collective bargaining rights of higher education faculty over certain working conditions, harm academic freedom, and limit free speech on Ohio’s public university and college campuses. 

OEA urges you to continue to make your voice heard on this unpopular bill. If you haven’t already, please contact your member of the Ohio House of Representatives using OEA’s Action Alert and urge them to oppose this bill. 

House Bill 187 – The Ohio House of Representatives did not vote on House Bill 187 as passed by the Ohio Senate.  The Ohio Senate amended the bill to remove the House’s temporary three-year averaging of property values, replacing the provisions with a proposal to temporarily expand and index to inflation the homestead exemption for income-eligible senior citizens, disabled senior citizens, and for disabled veterans and surviving spouses of public safety officers for tax years 2023, 2024, and 2025.  

Many local government entities were held harmless in the Senate’s proposal. However, under the as passed by the Ohio Senate version of the bill, school districts would only be reimbursed for one-half of the revenue lost from the expanded exemption. The proposal would result in a $97 million revenue loss for districts over three years.

Considering Ohio’s strong financial situation, OEA is requesting that school districts are treated the same as other local governments with the state covering 100% of the expanded homestead exemption.  

Senate Bill 162 – On Wednesday, December 13, 2023, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed SB 162 by a vote of 31-0. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Andy Brenner (R-Delaware), would require school districts to provide academic intervention services to students who score “limited” on state assessments in math, English language arts, or both. These intervention services must be offered free of cost to the student and must not supplant the student’s core academic instructional time. The bill establishes that intervention services can be offered directly through the school, through a vendor, or a combination of both. The services can range from tutoring, additional instructional time, an extended school calendar, or other programs.

OEA is an interested party on SB 162. Earlier this fall, the Ohio Senate Education Committee adopted a substitute bill that included a provision to address one key concern held by OEA. The bill will exempt students from the requirements if they demonstrate that they are at grade level in the subject through coursework and diagnostic tests. SB 162 now heads to the Ohio House for the lower chamber’s consideration. OEA will continue to work with members of the Ohio House to improve the bill.

Senate Bill 168 – The Ohio Senate passed SB 168 by a vote of 24-7. OEA opposes provisions in the bill that would allow any school district to employ non-licensed individuals as classroom teachers if they have at least a master’s degree; prohibit giving preference to seniority in nonteaching employee staffing reductions; requiring courses to be taught outside the normal school day for no additional pay. Other provisions in the bill include allowing districts to use teacher evaluations other than the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) and clarifying that a district or school may determine the number of hours that a teacher employed by the district or school must complete to satisfy professional development requirements regarding instruction of students with dyslexia. Instruction must be between six and 18 clock hours. SB 168 now heads to the Ohio House for its consideration.  OEA will continue to work with members of the House to oppose the passage of SB 168. To read OEA’s opposition floor letter sent to the Ohio Senate on SB 168, please click here.

House Bill 8 – The Ohio Senate Education Committee did not vote on HB 8, legislation considered hostile to the LGBTQ+ community. OEA opposes HB 8, which unnecessarily entangles state government in regulating communications and relationships between parents, educators, and students. The committee plans to continue review of the bill when hearings resume in the new year. OEA is concerned that HB 8 could sow distrust between schools and parents, instead of fostering collaboration. More likely, various aspects of HB 8 could lead to increased challenges for marginalized students, arbitrary book bans, and ideology-based censorship. Government should trust educators more rather than impose top-down mandates that interfere with the partnerships between schools and parents. To read a copy of OEA’s opposition testimony on HB 8 before the Senate Education Committee, please click here.

For an archive of past Legislative Watch releases, visit the Legislative Watch archive.