By Kevin Kelley
The amendment prohibiting public school teachers from encouraging “gateway sexual activity” was ultimately dropped from the Ohio House’s version of the state biennial budget. But House Democratic leader Armond Budish had fun mocking the amendment at his April 16 appearance before Westshore Democratic Clubs.
The amendment, introduced by Republican Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, would have imposed a $5,000 fine and allowed parents to sue teachers guilty of violating the law. The pro-abstinence amendment also specifically prohibited teachers from distributing condoms or demonstrating devices for sexual stimulation.
After widespread criticism, the Republican-led House voted to drop the language, 76-19, two days after Budish’s Westlake talk.
The Beachwood Democrat said such proposals contradicted the GOP’s claim that jobs and the economy are the party’s top priorities. Such proposals, he said, are also the result of redistricting tactics intended to give Republicans “safe” districts but instead make GOP candidates vulnerable to primary challenges from the extreme right wing. Moderate Republicans must move increasingly to the right, lest they lose to a more conservative challenger, the reasoning goes.
“Right-wing extremism taking over our legislature and taking over our government” will continue, Budish said, until rules for redistricting are changed.
Budish noted that some in the Tea Party threatened to run against any Statehouse Republican who voted for Medicaid expansion, even though Republican Gov. John Kasich supports it.
The expansion of Medicaid, which will be funded by the federal government for the first three years, “should be a no-brainer,” Budish said. But the House excluded it from the budget. Why? Budish said he believes it’s because House Republicans just don’t like President Barack Obama.
The final House budget, passed 61-35 April 18, calls for the Medicaid question to be addressed later in the year. The two-year, $61.5 billion state budget is now under consideration by the Senate.
Budish, who represents the 8th District in the Ohio House, attacked GOP spending decisions since Kasich took office. He attacked income tax cut plans that he said help mostly the wealthy.
“That is their economic development plan,” Budish said of Republicans’ interest in tax cuts.
Republicans believe tax cuts will cause businesses, and new jobs, to automatically flow into Ohio. However, that didn’t happen following a 2005 tax cut, he said.
The budget passed by the House includes a $1.5 billion state income tax cut over the next two years.
Budish also criticized cuts in public education funding, saying in some instances class size is ballooning to 40 or 50 students.
“Class size is so large you can’t learn,” he said.
He also attacked Republicans’ push for the expansion of private school vouchers and funding for charter schools, which he said receive much less oversight than public schools.
“We’re seeing the privatization of public schools,” Budish said.
House Republican leaders note that their budget ensures that none of Ohio’s school districts will receive less state aid than they now get in the current fiscal year.