There is often fanfare when the governor introduces the executive budget, but it is the legislative body that ultimately determines what policy becomes law. And while we’ve written about how Ohio’s biennial budget process works, a deeper dive into committees’ role may help advocates and analysts understand how that policy is deliberated and formed.
By tradition, the budget legislation is introduced in the state House of Representatives. The legislation represents the budget proposal recommended by the governor and a bill number is assigned. For this budget cycle, that is House Bill 110 or HB 110. Even before the legislative language is finalized, the full House Finance Committee, currently comprised of 11 Democrats and 22 Republicans, starts hearing testimony from state agencies regarding the governor’s proposal. These hearings often last many hours for one or two weeks and involve numerous questions from committee members to testifying parties. Members of the public can find recordings of the testimony and the materials presented by agency leadership on the state’s website.
It is the legislative body that ultimately determines what policy becomes law
After review by the full committee, various policy issues and subjects are assigned to smaller subcommittees of the larger House Finance Committee by the chair (currently Representative Scott Oelslager). These subcommittees are created at the discretion of the House speaker and are as follows:
- Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources
- Health and Human Services
- Higher Education
- Primary and Secondary Education
Each of the subcommittees is comprised of five members, with each subcommittee consisting of three Republicans and two Democrats. It is during this phase that state agency testimony continues and testimony from the public begins. Testimony may be listed as “interested party” (which denotes no support or opposition, overtly), “proponent” or “opponent.”
After collecting testimony from the public, the subcommittees report back to the full House Finance Committee with recommendations, including amendments. At this point, the House has its first revised version of the budget known as the Substitute House Bill or Sub. HB 110 and significant changes between versions can be found in the “Comparison Document” or “Comp Doc” maintained by the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) and posted on LSC’s budget website. The testimony process continues once more where the House Finance Committee then prepares one last consolidation of amendments in the “omnibus amendment,” where the House Committee will vote on final changes to the legislation before accepting it as the Amended Substitute House Bill or Am. Sub. HB 110. During each of these phases, many amendments will be offered, especially after the omnibus process concludes and is either accepted or rejected. Typically, if an amendment is offered beyond the omnibus process, especially by a member of the minority party, it has little chance for success.
After the Senate deliberates the budget, which mirrors the House process, the House must concur with changes offered by the Senate in order for it to become an Act and head to the governor for his review
After accepting the final version of the legislation, the bill moves from the House Finance Committee to the House floor where it can be amended once more before passing it along to the Senate where the entire process repeats. Interestingly, Senate President Matt Huffman dispensed with subcommittees for the Senate’s review of the state budget, though there is still a Senate Finance Committee of 10 Republicans and three Democrats. Deliberations on amendments and policy will be managed through that single committee during the budget process.
After the Senate deliberates the budget, which mirrors the House process, the House must concur with changes offered by the Senate in order for it to become an Act and head to the governor for his review. As concurrence is incredibly unlikely and rare, the bill typically gets re-referred to a special committee called a “Conference Committee.” Conference Committee is made up of members from both chambers and their charge is to reconcile differences between the two versions of the bill. This element of these hearings is important because it limits what can be deliberated by Conference Committee to only those issues where there is disagreement. Once the Senate and the House approve the revised bill, the bill becomes an “Act” and is sent to the governor for signature.
The Legislative Service Commission/LSC: An independent, non-partisan research and drafting agency that serves the state legislature and produces key documents regarding the budget and other legislation.
Substitute Bill/Sub. Bill: An amended version of legislation
Amended Substitute Bill/Am. Sub. Bill: An amended substitute bill that is typically associated with an omnibus amendment.
Omnibus Amendment: A single legislative change capturing a number of amendments enabling Committee to accept all at once.
Comparison Document/Comp Doc: A comparative analysis of an operating budget bill that documents changes for each provision of the state budget.