By Marc Kovac
The head of the Ohio House said Thursday that he does not expect lawmakers to take further action this session on legislation that would require residents to show government-issued photo identification cards to participate in elections.
“The rural expression is, ‘I think we’ve had enough fun with that,’” said Speaker Bill Batchelder, a Republican from Medina. “I think we’ll probably not see it again.”
The legislation, which passed the Ohio House and moved through the committee process in the Senate before stalling short of a floor vote, prompted an outcry among Democrats and voting-rights advocates, who called it a modern day poll tax that would hurt poor, minority and elderly voters.
Batchelder still supports more stringent identification requirements at the polls to avoid the kinds of perceptions of election fraud that were created during the last presidential election. And he said he expects to see the legislation again in future general assemblies.
But, “There’s a limit to how many times you want to run your head into a wall,” he said concerning the bill’s prospects for the remainder of the current session.
Batchelder did say that he expected lawmakers to act on other issues following their summer recess but before the November election.
Included in the mix is follow-up legislation related to JobsOhio, the new private nonprofit group that is poised to take control of the state’s economic development programs.
Lawmakers passed initial legislation creating the nonprofit, and Gov. John Kasich recently appointed members to its board.
His top jobs adviser, Mark Kvamme, will serve as interim investment officer. Other members include the heads of Procter & Gamble, Marathon Petroleum and Bob Evans and Ohio State University President Gordon Gee.
“It’s an amazing group of people who have been willing to take time to do what has to be done in this area,” Batchelder said.
Left in limbo is legislation implementing rules related to the Great Lakes compact, after Kasich vetoed an earlier bill that was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
House Bill 231 would have allowed withdrawals from Lake Erie of 5 million gallons per day and from related surface or groundwater sources of 2 million gallons per day, with lower levels set for certain small streams. Businesses wanting to tap more would have to obtain permits to do so.
Proponents believe the legislation would provide a reasonable regulatory process while promoting voluntary water-conservation by landowners.
But opponents said the bill would adversely affect water levels on Lake Erie and could jeopardize Ohio’s commitments to the multistate Great Lakes compact.
Kasich sided with the latter and vetoed the bill.
Lawmakers will either have to pursue the issue through separate legislation or attempt to override the governor’s veto. They would need 60 votes in the House to do the latter.