COLUMBUS—State Representative Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) announced that the Ohio House of Representatives has approved the conference committee report on Amended Substitute House Bill 49, the state operating budget. With a major focus on combating Ohio’s dangerous drug epidemic and ensuring that schools receive adequate funding, the legislation provides support to areas most in need and keeps spending under the rate of inflation over the biennium. 

“While this budget is by no means perfect, I believe it makes great strides forward in the lives of many Ohioans,” said Thompson. “This budget will address many of the pressing issues Ohioans are currently facing with common sense, fiscally responsible solutions. As the chairman of the Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development, and Natural Resources, I had the pleasure of playing a strategic role in crafting this current legislation. I was able to make amendments to the budget to include reforms to enable the Consumers’ Counsel to assist consumers with public utility complaints, save FFA support within the Ohio Department of Education, stopping attempted severance tax hikes, and reining in Medicaid spending.”

The bill addresses the following issues, among others:

As championed by the House through the Ohio HOPES (Heroin, Opioids, Prevention, Education and Safety) Agenda, the budget tackles the state’s drug epidemic head-on with funding totaling $180 million in new money. Investments focused on the areas of prevention, treatment, mental health care and workforce programs ensure that communities across Ohio, both rural and urban, receive the support they need to educate young people, help those who are addicted and prevent overdose deaths, which is a statistic that continues to rise.

House Bill 49 makes Ohio the first state to seek a federal waiver to freeze new enrollment to the Medicaid Group VIII expansion population with certain exemptions (the drug addicted and mentally ill). Additionally, through a series of provisions, the budget strengthens accountability in the state’s Medicaid program by placing guardrails on future Medicaid Group VIII spending through the Controlling Board. The bill also returns Medicaid oversight to the General Assembly by directing the Department of Medicaid to seek a federal waiver to require a Group VIII Medicaid recipient to be one of the following: over 55, medically fragile, employed, in an education or workforce training program, or in a recovery program.

The bill would require the Supervisor of Agricultural Education in the Department of Education to serve as the chair of the board of trustees of the Ohio FFA Association. This will permit the Supervisor to assist with the Association’s programs in a matter that enables the Association to maintain its state charter and to meet applicable requirements of the U.S. Department of Education and the National FFA organization.

The bill would strip out the call for a severance tax hike on the oil and gas industry. Thanks to an amendment to the budget, a specified portion of severance tax money will continue to be allocated for the plugging of idle and orphan wells.

Through various reforms to be phased in over a six-year period, the bill aims to offer property tax relief for farmers by reducing the taxable value of farmland.

Requires the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate to appoint the four appointed members of the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission instead of the Governor as under current law.

Am. Sub. H.B. 49 will now head to the Governor for his consideration.

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