COLUMBUS — The ongoing debate over Medicaid expansion and reform will be front and center when Ohio lawmakers return to action this fall, but it will hardly be the only issue.
Both the House and Senate have spent time this summer working on Medicaid changes, after Republicans rejected Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to expand Medicaid coverage to about 275,000 low-income Ohioans, bringing $13 billion in federal money to Ohio over seven years.
A coalition of supporters is working to put the issue on the 2014 ballot, but they hope lawmakers will make such a move unnecessary.
House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, said the “Obamacare language” will top the fall agenda. “We have a number of things we think need to be added to that for it to be what we would be in a position to support,” he said. “(Kasich) talks about expansion. I don’t think that’s a good idea. Reform is a good idea.”
Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, is working to clarify some issues with the federal government, particularly the ability for Ohio to make future Medicaid changes if the feds fail to uphold their funding commitment, said spokesman John McClelland.
“Work is being done every day on this issue, but we haven’t yet reached a conclusion on how we want to proceed,” he said.
If a bill passes in October, the Kasich administration appears ready to have the expansion by Jan. 1, when the 100 percent federal funding of it kicks in. But the proposal faces a tough road.
“The fundamental question is, are we going to create a new class of Medicaid recipients?” said Rep. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, questioning the sustainability.
“Most folks who are childless adults who aren’t disabled are able to go out and get a job. There are many, many jobs available for people who are willing to go,” he said.
Other legislation that could see action this fall:
•Municipal income taxes. Business groups say Ohio’s system of municipal income-tax laws is way too complex and burdensome, but fixing the problem has proved tougher than identifying it.
A new version of House Bill 5, a municipal income-tax uniformity bill, should be rolled out soon in preparation for passage. City officials, including those in Columbus and central Ohio suburbs, have sharply criticized the proposal as going beyond simplifying tax laws, instead altering taxes in ways that will cost them much-needed revenue.
The bill is expected to include a number of changes, including delayed changes to how net operating losses are calculated, one of the key objections from city officials.
“I don’t think that whatever we ultimately pass is going to be a ‘kumbaya, everyone loves this bill’ moment,” Huffman said. “It’s going to solve some of the worst problems that we have. No bill of this kind is going to be revenue neutral for everybody.”
•Internet cafes. The cafes are trying to overturn on the 2014 ballot a law passed this year that limits payouts of sweepstakes machines and essentially would put them out of business. Meanwhile, the Senate passed a new bill in late June that also would likely shut down the gambling parlors by capping sweepstakes payments as a percentage of gross revenue.
The bill, which currently contains an emergency clause that would not allow it to be overturned via referendum, is now in the House, where Huffman expects hearings to start soon. He thinks there is support to pass it.
•Fraternal gambling. The legislature may step in to help veterans and fraternal organizations, whose use of “electronic raffle” machines remains in legal limbo. The concern is crafting a law for these groups without opening up a loophole that Internet cafes can exploit.
•Guns. There is not much specific talk about gun bills, but few would be surprised to see one or more move. There are seven Republican-sponsored gun bills in the House and two more in the Senate, including a proposal to enact a “Stand Your Ground” law.
•Graduation tests. Ohio’s graduation-test requirements are a bit of a mess right now. The plan was to dump the high-school graduation test and replace it with a tougher college- and career-readiness exam and a series of end-of-course exams. But lawmakers haven’t acted yet to discontinue the Ohio Graduation Test, meaning sophomores next school year could be required to take all the tests, costing the state millions.
•Election law. The House may move on Senate Bill 109, which makes a number of minor election-law changes but also includes a provision that is drawing opposition from Democrats. It would count a vote if a person casting an absentee or provisional ballot marks a candidate and then writes in the same candidate, but if a traditional ballot is cast, such a vote would not count.