Newly elected Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens unveiled a staunchly conservative list of Republican priority measures for the current legislative session. These dashed the bipartisan hopes of Democrats who had backed his unexpected victory following weeks of chaos within the Republican party.
This seemed to do little to bring the divided supermajority together, however.
Stephens, attempting to project unity at a Statehouse news conference by showing up with a sizable group of fellow Republicans, said that his caucus’ top measures are intended to boost Ohio’s economy, help families, and improve educational opportunities while
“We have work to do to ensure that we can attract and retain the brightest to come here and to stay here,” said the Ohio Republican.
The majority of the bills on the list are among those supported by a group of wealthy conservative leaders, organizations, and political action committees (PACs). Those leaders and donors have supported party censure. They have also backed attacks on 22 of 67 House Republicans who voted with all 32 House Democrats to support Stephens for speaker instead of state Rep. Derek Merrin.
The twelve priority initiatives, many of which are empty placeholders with no detail, deal with subjects including cutting Ohio’s income tax, banning transgender women from playing sports, and strengthening parental rights in public schools.
Stephens also included the “backpack bill,” or universal education voucher, on the list, even after having openly questioned the necessity of such legislation. All students would be eligible for scholarships under the proposed legislation, regardless of whether they attend public, private, or home schools.
According to Stephens, he has also submitted a ballot initiative that would increase the hurdle for passing an amendment to the Ohio Constitution from 50% to 60% to the committee.
If lawmakers decide to put the initiative on the ballot, a sizable coalition of voter advocacy, civil rights, labor, and church groups has vowed to oppose it.