COLUMBUS -- State lawmakers have left town for their spring recess, with no voting sessions scheduled until after the May primary.
Before they exited the Statehouse, however, they moved a bunch of bills containing provisions of Gov. John Kasich's "mid-biennium review," an off-year budget bill packed with law changes and policy proposals that lawmakers split into more than a dozen separate pieces of legislation.
The most controversial stuff -- namely an across-the-board tax cut funded, in part, by tax hikes on fracked oil and gas, cigarettes and other tobacco products and commercial activities at larger businesses -- remains before Ohio House committees. And some other proposals are expected to be introduced in even more MBR-related legislation in coming weeks.
The floor votes were split on several of the mid-biennium bills that passed before lawmakers headed home; on a number of others, there was broad bipartisan support.
That's not to say that lawmakers are happy with the governor's annual budgeting.
Some Republican legislators were open about their concerns about the process two years ago, and the vice chairman of the House finance committee let known his feelings on the latest MBR round during deliberations last week.
Rep. Terry Boose, R-Norwalk, didn't mince words last year about such issues during the House vote on the biennial budget bill. While ultimately supporting that spending plan, he said budget legislation was becoming too policy-heavy.
"We're looking a lot more like the federal government, and I don't think any of us want to look a lot more like the federal government," he said at the time.
Boose made some similar comments last week just before the House vote on HB 483, one of this session's main mid-biennium budget bills.
The legislation, he said, moved too quickly. The first batch of MBR bills was on the floor for a vote less than a month after the governor offered his initial plan.
"We really don't have time to react," he said. "Some of this stuff moves so fast that we don't have time to get the answers that we need to."
The final main bill, Boose said, was filled with unrelated provisions and amendments.
"We have a Christmas tree bill when the budget comes along," he said. "If we wait another five or six months we're going to have another Christmas tree bill in lame duck where everybody tries to get their things in. And now we've added another time to do that. ... I don't think government was meant to be a series of Christmas tree bills."
The now-annual budgeting process, Boose said, is making Ohio lawmakers look like their not-much-loved Washington counterparts.
"We're making these controversial, quick moves," he said. "We're not talking about them. We're not doing everything, and it looks a little like Washington to me. And I know we don't want to look like Washington."
Boose ultimately urged the governor to be in more regular contact with lawmakers and work on law changes through the normal committee process. That's opposed to offering one giant bill each year and expecting quick action on its contents.
"I'm not sure he'll listen, because I don't think he did last time," Boose said. "We are the legislative branch. He is the executive branch. It's our job to do the laws, to run the bills through our process. We would love to hear his ideas, but we would like to hear them on a constant, regular basis. ... We get this secretive thing that's all held up in the governor's office, and then all of the sudden it comes to us and [he says] please pass this ... don't do the whole vetting process, don't take the time it needs to take. Let's get it done in a month."
He added, "Mr. Governor, in the past, we haven't worked this way. Washington does work that way."
(Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.)