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House & Senate make moves with SB 83

On Wednesday, June 14, the Ohio House and Ohio Senate each took action on Senate Bill 83. In the House, the Higher Education Committee floated a new substitute version of SB 83. In the Senate, the Finance Committee adopted an omnibus amendment to the state budget bill (HB 33), which included the Senate-passed version of SB 83 with a few tweaks. On June 15, the full Senate approved the budget bill–with the SB 83 components–along a party-line vote of 24-7.

New House Version of SB 83
For the new version of SB 83 in the House, this comparison document outlines the differences between the Senate-passed version of the bill and their new version of the bill. Anything that is not referenced in this “comp doc” means that it is the same as the Senate-passed version of the bill.

The broad changes sought by the House are indicative of how deeply flawed SB 83 is, which begs the question of why House Republicans are bothering to pursue the bill at all. It is possible that they use this version of the bill as the basis of their positions during the state budget conference committee.

Here are the highlights of the changes:

-Removes the prohibitions on bargaining subjects

-Removes post-tenure review

-Removes workload language

-Removes reference of faculty remaining committed to expressing intellectual diversity

-Allows institutions to design required government/history course instead of the chancellor

-Reduces the weight of student evaluations in the teaching component of faculty evaluations from 50% to 25% and allows institutions to develop the evaluations instead of the chancellor

-Removes multiple reporting requirements to the chancellor

-Revises language restricting college and university speech to clarify that institutions may make statements on matters that directly impact its funding or mission of discovery, improvement, and dissemination of knowledge

-Increases syllabi requirements to also include a calendar of when certain materials and topics will be covered, as well as list required and recommended readings

-Changes university trustee term lengths to six years

-Removes that institutions have to change their mission statements and instead requires institutions to create a “statement of principles”

-Removes the requirement to apply for DEI program exemptions if DEI is needed to fulfill grant, licensure, accreditation or other requirements

Unfortunately, the section that would ban strikes for campus unions remains in this version, but we believe this is more indicative of the positions of those legislators working directly on this new iteration of the bill and not necessarily reflective of House Republicans at large.

SB 83 in Senate Version of State Budget (HB 33)
As we have anticipated since SB 83 was first introduced, the Senate included SB 83 in its 9,000-page version of HB 33 that it passed yesterday, which included this 2,000-page omnibus amendment of numerous policy changes, many of which have nothing to do with state appropriations.

There were several small changes between the Senate-passed version of SB 83 and the language in the budget bill:

-Removes that institutions have to change their mission statements and instead requires institutions to create a “statement of commitment”

-Reduces the impact of student evaluations on the teaching component of faculty evaluations from 50% to at least 25%

-Allows faculty to appeal their final annual evaluation

-Supplies a definition of retrenchment: “Retrenchment” means a process by which a state institution of higher education reduces programs or services, thus resulting in a temporary suspension or permanent separation of one

or more institution faculty, to account for a reduction in student population or overall funding, a change to institutional missions or programs, or other fiscal pressures or emergencies facing the institution.

Requires boards of trustees to establish a process for handling complaints in regards to the portions of the bill governing diversity, equity, and inclusion programs or trainings

-Changes university trustee term lengths to six years

Altering aspects of a bill that the Senate already passed is an implicit admission that SB 83 is still a flawed bill and needs to undergo a much more thorough review. But a more thorough vetting would not have aligned with their goal to bury this into the budget bill.

Other Higher Education Changes in Budget

In addition to SB 83, Senate Republicans put other higher education policy changes into the budget bill. You can view those changes in this comparison document.

Here are some of the noteworthy changes:

-Includes the elements of SB 117 in establishing “intellectual diversity” institutes at the University of Toledo and The Ohio State University

-Allows the need-based Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) to be awarded to students at any two- or four-year state institution

-Caps tuition guarantee programs for new student cohorts at no more than 3% above the previous academic year’s cohort

-Allows students to opt-out of vaccine mandates

-Prohibits state universities from requiring students to live in on-campus housing, unless a state university requires only first-year students who live more than 25 miles away from campus to live in on-campus student housing

-Allows institutions to lease land if certain conditions are met

-Strips voting power from The Ohio State University student trustees and prohibits them from attending executive sessions

In terms of overall funding, the Senate-passed budget keeps higher education funding relatively unchanged from the House version of the bill. Unfortunately, it is a far cry from the solid increases that Gov. DeWine had proposed in his executive budget.

What’s Next?
We believe that the House of Representatives will vote against concurring with the Senate’s budget changes, thus sending HB 33 to a conference committee. There will be six members to the committee–three from each chamber, two of whom will represent the majority party and the other the minority party. The committee will hammer out a final version of the bill, which then will be approved by both chambers before being sent to the governor. Gov. DeWine has line-item veto authority.

The budget bill must be signed by June 30 in order for it to take effect on July 1 for the beginning of the next fiscal year. If an agreement cannot be reached in time, the legislature will have to pass continuing resolutions for the state to be funded at current levels until there is an agreement. Due to the wide range of disagreements between the House and Senate, HB 33 may not be settled by the statutory deadline.

Once we know who the members of the conference committee are, we will provide that information and encourage you to contact them to ask that they remove SB 83 from the budget. We also will ask you to continue contacting the governor to ask him to line-item veto any elements of SB 83 that make it into the final budget bill.

In the meantime, please continue making calls and sending personalized emails to your State Representative, House Republican members, and Gov. DeWine. Click here for a spreadsheet of targets and contact information. For the Representatives, use both email addresses. We highly recommend that you use your personal email address for these communications.

Remember to keep your communications concise and courteous. Phone calls likely will be answered by an aide or go to voicemail. Personalize your message with how the bill would negatively impact your teaching, students, and institution.

Here is a sample script for calls and emails to State Representatives:

I am calling/writing today to urge Representative [last name] to oppose Senate Bill 83 in the state budget bill. SB 83 is a dangerous bill that not only attacks union rights for campus employees, but also attempts to micromanage classroom instruction and college and university operations. The bill will drive up costs for students and deter quality faculty and students from choosing Ohio institutions. SB 83 isn’t salvageable and should be removed from the budget bill.

Here is a sample script for calls and emails to Gov. DeWine:

I want to make sure that Gov. DeWine is aware that Senate Bill 83 is now part of the state operating budget bill. SB 83 threatens quality higher education and workforce development in Ohio. I sincerely hope that the governor will exercise his line-item veto power to eliminate any pieces of SB 83 that might make it into the final budget bill.

Thank you for your continued engagement and activism!

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Michelle Flanigan for STRS Retirement Board