Legislators talk state of the State

December 13, 2016

MIAMI COUNTY — From workforce development to medical marijuana, Sen. Bill Beagle and Rep. Steve Huffman updated attendees of the annual State of the State luncheon on some of the current issues facing the Ohio legislature.

The luncheon hosted by local chambers of commerce, and featured the state legislators as the guest speakers. Beagle and Huffman also answered questions from the attendees.

Beagle, the chairman of the senate Workforce Subcommittee, previewed a new development for OhioMeansJobs.com, which will be officially unveiled later this month.

“It’s something that we have been doing to help you solve some real world workforce problems,” he said.

The state collaborated with an initiative by the National Skills Coalition, State Workforce and Education Alignment Project (SWEAP),

The new development will allow policy makers and education leaders to see how educational and training programs work together with industries.

“Our goal is to align education and training with workforce development and make sure everyone is growing in the right direction,” Beagle said.

Beagle noted that the legislature just wrapped up the 131st General Assembly. The next assembly will convene in January.

Tipp City native, Beagle represents Ohio Senate District 5, which includes all of Miami and Preble Counties and parts of Darke and Montgomery.

Huffman touched on several topics the house tackled this year, including medical marijuana, and the state budget.

Lawmakers passed a bill legalizing medical marijuana in May, making Ohio the 25th state to do so. Huffman sponsored the bill.

“It was about getting it right in the State of Ohio,” Huffman said.

Several local municipalities have opted for a moratorium on licensing medical marijuana-related businesses within their limits, which Huffman said was something he insisted on including in the bill.

“You need to look at the rules and decide what’s best,” he said. “You certainly do not want marijuana industry in downtown or around the courthouse, downtown Troy or downtown Tipp, but they can be out in industrial parks where very few kids or people can get to them.”

With the state budget on the horizon, Huffman said his main concern is the cost of Medicaid.

“Two or three years ago, the governor, who totally ignored the general assembly, chose to take Medicaid expansion in the state of Ohio. And now the bill’s coming due,” he said.

The cost of the expansion was paid for 100 percent at the federal level, but in the next biennium, it is expected to cost the state about $400 million, he explained.

“If everything stays the same in the budget, we have to come up with $400 million,” Huffman said.

The Medicaid costs could be even bigger, he added, since the federal government said that state could no longer collect taxes on services provided through Medicaid managed care organizations, which collected hundreds of millions of dollars in matching federal Medicaid funds. This change could cost the state nearly $1.5 billion, Huffman said.

Huffman, from Tipp City, represents Ohio House District 80, which includes Miami County and part of Darke County.