Provision slows down the closing of developmental centers
The proposal calls for setting up a panel every time the governor orders a state facility to close.
BY JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- A provision in a bill that would plug a $720 million hole in the current state budget would set up a commission that would prevent the closing of state facilities without some study, two state lawmakers say.
The provision, if it stays in the budget-correction bill, is needed to possibly derail closings such as the ordered shutdowns of Apple Creek Developmental Center in Wayne County and Springview Developmental Center in Clark County, the lawmakers say.
"As fast as everything is moving, the principle of you-can't-order-the-closing-of-facilities-without-a-master-plan has to be in place," said state Rep. Merle Grace Kearns, a Springfield Republican.
Kearns and state Rep. Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, both members of the powerful House Finance and Appropriations Committee, crafted the provision in the budget-correction bill.
The finance committee worked into the night Tuesday and was expected to approve the measure, setting up a possible vote today in the full Ohio House. The Senate would also have to consider the measure.
Under the provision, an 11-member facilities closing commission would be set up every time the governor orders a state facility shuttered, Kearns and Faber said.
Under the provision, the commission would have to conduct a study and make a recommendation to the governor and the governor would have to follow the recommendation, Kearns said.
"This would be an opportunity for each local community to defend its facility," Faber said.
Faber said the provision, if it remains in the bill, would apply to any state facility that has been targeted for closure but hasn't yet ceased operations.
Singling out 2 centers
The provision comes in the wake of the recent announcement the state would seek to shutter Apple Creek and Springview as part of Republican Gov. Bob Taft's $49.1 billion, two-year executive budget proposal pending before the Legislature. The next two-year state budget is to be in place by July 1.
MRDD officials say operating costs and reimbursements, capital needs and demand for admissions pointed to closing Apple Creek and Springview. The state has 12 developmental centers around the state.
Taft administration officials say the state faces a deficit of $720 million by June 30, the end of the state's current two-year, $44 billion state budget.