Ohio House leader says he won't bring marijuana, higher ed bills to floor this year
In December, lawmaking in Ohio often stretches into the late evening and early morning hours as legislators race to get bills to the finish line—the governor’s desk—before their terms end.
The 135th General Assembly is mid-term, however, and the Ohio House has no plans to turn Wednesday into a policymaking marathon, according to its leaders.
Both the House and Senate are scheduled for the final session of the calendar year Dec. 13. The House has a number of road name designation and criminal justice bills on its agenda, but several priority pieces of legislation for one chamber or another are absent.
Senate Bill 83 is a top priority for Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima). The GOP-backed legislation to address concerns conservatives have about higher education has been on the house side for months, and although it cleared committee last Wednesday, it won't be on the floor this Wednesday.
Neither will House Bill 51, another GOP-backed measure that would shield Ohioans from federal gun control policies by encouraging local law enforcement to not enforce any the state sees in violation of the Second Amendment.
House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said Tuesday he doesn’t see the need to rush big bills through just because 2023 is coming to a close. “This is not a lame duck. This is merely we're getting ready to break for the holidays and come back in January,” Stephens said.
That also includes modifications to the new recreational marijuana law, which he said won't make it to the floor tomorrow as negotiations across chambers continue.
Last week, about six hours before Issue 2 became law as is, a bill to change adult-use cannabis laws cleared the Ohio Senate 28-2. Before the Senate voted, Gov. Mike DeWine called an early evening press conference to urge the house to pass those changes.
And on Monday, DeWine said he’s been talking to legislative leaders about the Senate changes to Issue 2. That bill would allow existing medical dispensaries to sell regulated products to non-medical customers within 90 days. DeWine said that needs to be addressed because right now, the product is legal but selling it is not.
“We're not going to concur on it,” Stephens said of the senate's version of modifications.
House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said the legislature could be dealing with discussions on potential changes to the program that continue into January, later in 2024—or fizzle out all together.
“There are some points that we are very aligned on,” Russo said. “But there seems to be misalignment between the house and the senate and the governor on some key points.”
The Senate will set its schedule for its last session Wednesday during a rules and reference meeting.