Ohio panel weighs tweaks to midterm budget bill

ANN SANNER Associated Press Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- An Ohio legislative panel debated additional changes Tuesday night to a midterm budget bill that sends more money to family and children services and bolsters efforts to combat drug abuse.

The sweeping measure also would make changes to campaign finance regulation in the political battleground state, including the elimination of a rule that requires labor organizations, nonprofits and corporations to disclose certain campaign spending to the secretary of state.

The rule on disclosing such independent campaign expenditures came under the previous Democratic secretary of state. It followed the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 that lifted restrictions on independent spending by corporations and labor unions.

A spokesman for Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said his office did not ask for the rule to be voided, nor was it a priority of Husted.

State Rep. Debbie Phillips, an Albany Democrat, sought to restore the rule in the budget bill, though her amendment was tabled by Republicans who dominate the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.

"It just looks very troubling on its face that this would show up in such an abrupt and secretive way with no public discussion and making very dramatic changes to the landscape for political expenditures for corporations and unions," Phillips said.

Finance Chairman Ron Amstutz, a Wooster Republican, defended the amendment. "I think we have a playing field that is not level now and it's because of that rule."

Amstutz said the proposal sets up parity in the state's campaign finance law.

A House GOP spokesman further clarified that the amendment targets a portion of the rule that prevents corporations and nonprofits from spending on elections for one year after they have received state or federal money issued by the state.

"That provision, our members believe, is an unconstitutional restriction on free speech," spokesman Mike Dittoe said.

Dittoe said that while the proposal gets rid of the rule, disclosure and disclaimer rules for labor organizations and corporations still remain in place elsewhere in state law. "Changing the rule, even getting rid of the rule, does not affect that at all," he said.

The GOP members defeated Democratic proposals to restore local government funding and reverse several anti-abortion provisions that were included in the state budget passed last year.

The committee is expected to make changes to the measure before voting on it later Tuesday night. The full House could vote Wednesday.

Earlier, the panel heard testimony on a change that would allow chiropractors to return young athletes to play after suffering a concussion.

The amendment comes after a new law requiring coaches, volunteers and officials in youth sports organizations to have players who show concussion-like symptoms sit out games or practices until they are checked and cleared by a doctor or licensed health care provider.

The Ohio chapters of the American College of Emergency Physicians and American Academy of Pediatrics said it opposed the amendment, contending that chiropractors do not have the proper training.

"Chiropractors are not, nor have they ever been, allowed to evaluate and clear athletes following a concussion," Dr. James Duffee of the pediatrics group said in written testimony. "Their scope of practice does not include the brain and neurologic injuries and disorders. The treatment of concussions and traumatic brain injuries is not in the chiropractic scope of practice."

The Republican-dominated committee made the changes on Monday, along with dozens of others.