In August of 2013, Rep. Thompson (R-Marietta) introduced House Bill 237 to repeal Common Core (CC) in Ohio. The bill never budged. In an attempt to give the bill some traction, Rep. John Adams (R-Sidney) introduced a discharge petition. The bill still didn’t budge.
[RELATED on OCR: “Why I Proposed H.B. 237 to Repeal Common Core in Ohio”]
Anytime during the past year, Rep. Huffman, Speaker Pro Tempore of the House (the second highest position in the House) could have used his high rank to advocate for a good bill, HB 237. Instead, Rep. Huffman co-sponsored a new bill, HB 597. The new bill functionally rendered both HB 237 and the discharge petition moot.
The new bill, HB 597, an education bill, was not assigned to the House Education Committee. Instead, in a bizarre move, it was assigned to the House Rules and Reference Committee — a committee chaired by none other than Rep. Huffman . HB 597 sets Rep. Huffman up to tout advocacy for anti-CC legislation when he runs for Senator Faber’s open Senate seat in 2016.
HB 597 was a placeholder bill.  By design, a placeholder bill is deliberately void of details. HB 597 did not specify any specific changes. A credible bill always includes the applicable sections of the Ohio Revised Code and it shows all instances where text is being added, repealed or otherwise altered.  (Unequivocally, the placeholder tactic should not be attributed to Rep. Thompson. It is certainly possible that he has not seen the placeholder maneuver in action before.)
The pig-in-a-poke placeholder maneuver left theoretical supporters of HB 597 in the peculiar situation of speaking in favor of a bill that was void of the details necessary for informed decision-making. HB 597 is now dead. A new version of it was introduced on August 18, and its formal name is Substitute HB 597. Unfortunately, any proponent testimony on the original vague bill will become evidence of support for the substitute bill, a bill that, in the end, may not be worthy of the support of those truly opposed to CC. Accordingly, to keep one’s name from being citied as being in support of the final bill, an individual testifying on any version of the bill may want to testify as an “Interested Party” rather than as a “Proponent.” 
[RELATED on OCR: “Common Corruption: What Ohio Can Expect with Common Core”]
The new bill (a tool for political gain) will be voted out of the House Rules and Reference Committee because bills introduced by high-ranking members of the House don’t die on the vine. According to Chairman Huffman, the Full House will vote on the bill after the November election. The timing is a strategic maneuver to delay the bill from moving forward through the remainder of the legislative process in an expeditious manner.
Based on the House calendar, it is likely that the vote by all 99 members of the House may take place on or about, November 19 (or even later). Note the limited number of days (approximately 11) remaining on the legislative calendar .
[RELATED on OCR: “Confrontational Politics and the Common Core”]
Next, the bill will be forwarded to the Senate. Currently, the key players in the Senate relative to CC are President of the Senate Keith Faber (R-Celina), and Chairman of the Education Committee Senator Peggy Lehner (R-Montgomery County) . (Neither is up for re-election this year, and neither has shown any serious interest in repealing CC.)
Normally, once in the Senate, a bill such as Substitute HB 597 would be assigned to the Education Committee, currently chaired by Senator Peggy Lehner, for public hearings (one obligatory hearing for sponsor testimony, and optional hearings for proponent and opponent testimony). Ideally, the bill would be promptly voted out of committee and scheduled for a full vote by the 33-member Senate. However, it is doubtful that any bill, let alone a bill dealing with Common Core, could make it through the Senate process in 11 days.
The only way even to begin to overcome the narrow 11-day window is for a member of the Senate to introduce a bill to repeal Common Core, now, so that hearings can begin, now. For the sake of discussion, let’s presume that an anti-CC bill does pass in the Senate (as implausible as that would be).
[RELATED on OCR: “Common Core Means Common Failure for States”]
The probability that the House and Senate bills would match, word-for-word is extremely low. Consequently, still within the 11-day window, the two bills would then be sent to a Committee of Conference for reconciliation. The six members of the committee would most likely be the President of the Senate (Faber), the Speaker of the House (Batchelder), the chairs of the relevant committees (Huffman and Lehner), and two other members.
In theory, members of the Committee of Conference attempt to mesh the two bills into one, but the result can be something quite unexpected. Whatever changes the six members agree upon are turned into a Conference Report and then sent back to each chamber for ratification — potentially, in this case, with a retained poison pill, or a new one. The ratification vote, in each Chamber, is straight up or down, no amendments allowed.
If either chamber rejects the Committee’s new version of the bill, the bill dies (but the record of how members voted will stand and those votes will be touted during the 2016 elections). Accordingly, the greatest political advantage would come from both Chambers passing an anti-CC bill that later gets “hung up” in the Conference Committee or fails to gain ratification in both chambers.
The second greatest political advantage, and the one most likely in play, would come from just the House passing the bill and then letting the clock run out.
Passage of Substitute HB 597 by the House meets an important political objective: it ensures that specific Republicans in contested 2016 primaries will be able to portray themselves as being against Common Core. Ultimately, some candidates, including a certain chairman, will proclaim that they fought to repeal CC but, sadly, forces beyond their control prevailed. Some voters will believe such claims, while others will recognize (and remember) the manipulation and vote accordingly. I’ll remember. Will you?
Diana Fessler is a public policy analyst. She served four terms as an elected member of the Ohio House of Representatives and was twice elected to serve as a member of Ohio’s State Board of Education. She is also the author of A Report on the Work Toward National Standards, Assessments and Certificates (precursor of Common Core) and Sex Instruction in the Classroom.
All opinions expressed belong solely to their authors and may not be construed as the opinions of other writers or of OCR staff.