Yesterday's session in the Ohio House was perhaps the most perplexing I have observed in many years.
As I summarize what took place and provide the final vote count, it is important to remember the 3 parts to the funds (in the form of $2 billion in state bonds) that Gov. Taft hopes Ohioans will approve at the polls in November.
1. Infrastructure (roads, bridges, water treatment systems, etc)
2. Research and development (and commercialization of products) for industry and research institutions 3. Site/facility development in support of the above research and development efforts
Summary of House session
State Rep. Earl Martin (R-Avon Lake) was recognized by Speaker Husted and spoke in favor of the resolution. He said that the $500 million (over a 7 year period) for research and development would allow Ohio to be more competitive nationally.
NOTE: Ohio has already funded Third Frontier research and development over the last 4 years to the tune of over $319 million. After it failed at the ballot the last time, they continued to fund it anyway.
State Rep. Dale Miller (D-Cleveland) encouraged members of the minority party to support the resolution.
NOTE: The Democrats had already cut a deal with House leadership to support it State Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) was recognized to offer an amendment, which he stated would address concerns some members have with the effects of the recent Supreme Court decision on property rights and eminent domain. (Kelo v. New London, CT)
He went on to state that the infrastructure portion of the funding ALONE is a reason to vote for this resolution. He explained that over $2.4 billion over the past 20 years has been an important part of local revenues for capital improvements and that these funds need to be reauthorized -- implying that a NO vote would rob local governments of the capacity to improve roads, bridges, and sewers and rob local jobs.
He also said that it was intentional to combine these infrastructure dollars with the Third Frontier funding (research and development) to "sweeten the pot to get local support" [since Third Frontier failed at the ballot last time].
NOTE: Rep. Seitz failed to fully disclose in his remarks that the current funding for infrastructure improvements doesn't run out until 2009 !! There is no hurry to put this reauthorization on the ballot this year. They would be barred constitutionally from issuing the bonds until "prior constitutional authority for the same purpose has been exhausted." (source: LSC Fiscal Analysis).
Rep. Jennifer Garrison (D-Marietta) spoke in opposition to the resolution. She expressed concern that public opposition to Third Frontier would cause the resolution to fail at the ballot. Then they would have to take the request for infrastructure bonds to the ballot next year "as a failed issue."
Several other conservative Republicans stood to be recognized to speak, including Rep. Gilb for the purpose of offering the stem cell/ cloning amendment. Speaker Husted ignored all of them and called for the vote on the Seitz amendment (which passed) and then called for a vote on the resolution.
HJR 2 passed - with NO prolife protection against using the bonds for human embryonic stem cell research or cloning (see vote record below).
WHY? Governor Taft cut a deal. He promised an executive order and his support for legislation on these issues.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? Governor Taft already VETOED language in the budget that would have prohibited state funds in Third Frontier to be used for human embryonic stem cell research. He has pressured members against constitutional protection. He now promises an executive "memo" that would only be binding until he is out of office at the end of next year.
The dilemma for Gov. Taft and Republican leadership is that they have cut a deal with their own members and also the Democrats. In the end one or the other will be cheated.
Please contact your state senator and ask for their NO vote on HJR 2. The Senate needs 20 votes out of 33 to pass the measure, since it is a joint resolution on a ballot issue.
They don't need to support the infrastructure funds now. They can do it later.
There is NO protection built into the issuance of research bonds against bioscientific experimentation on humans.
One more thing... In Governor Taft's veto message on stem cell funds, he stated that there is already protection in state policy. This was also not completely true. There is nothing in state law or state regulation to prohibit the use of state funds for human embryonic stem cell research or human cloning.
HOUSE ROLL CALL VOTE: HJR 2 84 - 7 (8 members were absent)