The Ohio House approved a spending bill that includes $1 million to build a professional women’s football stadium downtown. The Cleveland football community is thrilled about this opportunity, which could help Ohio, Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County demonstrate fairness in funding for men’s professional sports facilities. Ohio is currently competing with several other states to field the next professional women’s team in the country. Cleveland Democratic state representatives Bride Rose Sweeney and Terrence Upchurch fought for the funding, believing it is only the beginning of the conversation.
So far, the spending bill, House Bill 2, includes two components: a $350 million one-time funding from a surplus from the previous operating budget, and $1.65 billion in other bondable appropriations totaling approximately $2 billion. This is perplexing, but lawmakers acknowledge that the projects set to receive the $1.65 billion are typically included in the capital budget. Murphy expressed concerns about the amount of funds provided, stating that there should be significantly more. However, he and Sweeney both believe that this is only the beginning of the conversation.
The bill is being sent to the Senate. House Speaker Jason Stephens and Senate President Matt Huffman have a contentious relationship, with the two making polite jabs at each other during press conferences but appearing content to avoid working together behind the scenes. For example, the Senate passed a proposal on marijuana policy, which the House refuses to consider because it believes the Senate is “going against the will of the people.” The Senate approved S.B. 83, a contentious bill that would overhaul the higher education system. House leadership has continued to delay it, citing technical issues, infuriating Senate Republicans.
The House unanimously approved the previous two-year operating budget as well as a portion of H.B. 2. However, the Senate essentially decimated the House’s proposal last year, forcing them to go into conference committee for an extended period of time to negotiate for their needs. Huffman is expected to challenge Stephens for House Speaker next January. Huffman currently has a faction of supporters in the House, and candidates have told WEWS/OCJ that he has helped them in their bid to unseat Stephens’ team incumbents.
The one-time funding total is $700 million. According to House Finance Chair Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), the House and Senate agreed that each chamber would vote on half of it, or $350 million. However, Senate President Matt Huffman issued a statement Wednesday that could kill all of the project proposals. He never agreed not to touch the House’s half, and he believes that passing a large spending bill without additional debate is irresponsible and an abdication of the Senate’s duties.
House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) appeared annoyed by the president’s claims and addressed the memo to reporters following the session. He explained that the House moved ahead of the Senate because the other chamber was “ready with their projects” and had requested the House finance leadership.