If there’s one thing lawmakers know how to do well, it’s study.
That is, form study commissions and task forces and joint legislative review panels and such to thoroughly digest any given issue and offer recommendations for changing state policy to fix whatever needs fixing.
Sometimes, the process leads to meaningful legislation. Other times, it leads to more study commissions and inaction.
Consider Internet cafes. Lawmakers have had more than two years to consider the implications of unregulated sweepstakes parlor, and yet the Ohio Senate continues to punt that ball without action.
Attorney General Mike DeWine and supportive members in the Ohio House have begged the other chamber to do something — at least levy a tax so the state can reap some of the rewards of the great economic development engine gaming offers our communities — to no avail.
But I digress, as my focus here is on the $61 billion-plus biennial budget passed by the Ohio House last week and subject to further debate in the Ohio Senate over the next couple of months.
The legislation, with more than 4,500 pages of legalese, includes a number of new studies, most notably a process for the further examination of the state’s Medicaid program to determine ways to provide health care, employment assistance and other services to more needy residents.
The language, added during the lengthy floor debate in the House, means lawmakers will spend the summer recess and months thereafter working on the issue to try to reach a consensus on how to proceed.
The amendment received bipartisan support, but, as Minority Leader Armond Budish, a Democrat from Cleveland, said, it “is better than doing nothing, although not much better.”
Other studies outlined in the budget bill include:
Open Enrollment Task Force: To offer recommendations, by Dec. 31, on the practice of moving students from one school district to another.
License Plate Safety Task Force: To study the connection between license plates on vehicles and officer safety, including whether having front and back plates is still a good idea. Recommendations are due by the end of the year.
Gifted Students: Requires the Ohio Department of Education to determine how the state is identifying and helping its gifted students, with a report due back to lawmakers by March 31.
Along those lines, the legislation also requires state education officials to evaluate the effectiveness of an existing scholarship that aims to help disabled students and another program that enables high school students to gain college credit.
Joint Legislative Committee on the Affordable Care Act: A new lawmaker panel that will study President Obama’s signature health-care law to determine how it’s going to affect the state.
Legislative Study Committee on Clean Ohio and Brownfield Funding: Calls for a report no later than March 1 to consider how the state can provide long-term funding for agricultural easements, industrial site redevelopment and other programs that fall under Clean Ohio.
Study on At-Risk Students for Community Colleges: Requires the Board of Regents to consider students at the state’s two-year college at risk of failure, with reports due by the end of this year and early next year. The budget also includes a “Study on the Use of Success Points and Completion Measures for Community Colleges.”